Baskets didn't come easy for Colorado Springs Christian School guards Monday against St. Mary's.
They did for Sam Howard.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore forward more than picked up the slack with a monster, 30-point, 18-rebound performance to lead the Lions past the Pirates, 60-38 in a game featuring the two top Class 3A teams in the Pikes Peak region.
"We rely on him so much," said Lions guard Chris Hildenbrand, who had 12 points but was part of an outside shooting game that made only eight field goals. "When we're having an off night shooting, we're totally fine with just passing to him if he's making his shots."
Howard drained 14 shots, matching St. Mary's (10-2) total, to reach 30 points for the second straight game. He did the same Friday at Florence.
"Anyone can get hot on our team, and we just try to get the ball to the open guy," Howard said. "When you make a few shots early, you get on a roll, and that helps a lot. I just try to get in a good position to receive and rebound."
The Pirates trailed only 26-21 at halftime but struggled mightily in the second half, shooting a dismal 20 percent (6 for 30) from the field. The Pirates scored only five points in the third quarter and stared at a 40-26 hole entering the final eight minutes.
Alex Greenly led St. Mary's with 17 points, the only double-digit scorer for his team that saw its five-game winning streak snapped.
"Throughout the season, we've come out stagnant in every third quarter," Greenly said. "That's something we have to start working on. I don't know if that's a mental thing or what. There's no excuse for it. We need to come out stronger in the third quarter."
Howard got CSCS (8-3) off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first 5:47 to give the Lions a 13-5 lead.
St. Mary's responded with an 8-0 run for a 13-13 deadlock after a pair of Ben Padrnos free throws with 7:32 remaining in the second quarter. But three straight Howard field goals started a 10-2 run that opened up a 23-15 advantage with 2:17 left before halftime, and the Pirates never got closer than five the rest of the night.
"Sam carried us inside, and it was definitely our worst shooting game of the season," Lions coach Mark Engesser said. "He's our first option, but in the past games, our guards have shot better. I was proud of them for fighting, and we had a huge defensive third quarter. Defense is our staple. You've got to stop teams first. That's what we preach."