SANFORD — The Crossroads Christian men’s basketball team experienced its first major hiccup of the 2021-22 season at Grace Christian on Friday evening.

Inefficient offense and an overall lack of composure in hostile territory derailed a strong start for the Colts, forcing them to settle for an 85-59 defeat, their worst loss of the year so far.

Head coach Scottie Richardson said any chance of a victory for Crossroads on Friday was eliminated the moment his players lost their focus and began to commit unnecessary mistakes against a solid Grace Christian program.

“We had three keys and the top one was focus,” Richardson said. “This was going to be a tough environment and there’s only so much you can do with pumping in crowd noise during practice. [Grace Christian’s] student section gets called the Crazies for a reason, but they’re a great team and we lost composure.”

A pivotal turning point in the game occurred shortly after the start of the second quarter.

Junior John Henderson Jr. muscled his way through the Grace Christian defense to lay down a thunderous dunk in front of the opposing crowd and give Crossroads a 19-17 lead, but was immediately assessed a technical foul that sent him to the bench for the rest of the half.

Grace Christian promptly took advantage by assuming control of the game. Led by their top scorer, junior Ma’kyi Butler, the Crusaders outscored Crossroads 19-8 after Henderson’s foul to enter the locker room up 36-27.

More self-inflicted errors combined with poor shot selection only compounded the issues for a disjointed Crossroads team. By the time the third quarter concluded, the Colts’ deficit had ballooned to 24 points.

Amidst the chaos and two more technical fouls in garbage time, Richardson singled out senior Mason Gladieux as a bright spot on a miserable night.

Gladieux made the most of his minutes off the bench after several starters were substituted out of the game by driving to the rim and finding open shots. He ended up leading Crossroads in scoring with 15 points, while senior Drew Rogers and junior Shane Anthony followed him with 12 and 10 respectively.

Richardson said that Friday was one of Gladieux’s best games in a Crossroads uniform, and that he intends to use him more in the rotation if he can duplicate that performance and fine-tune some minor elements of his play.

“That’s what we’re looking for,” Richardson said. “We’re early in the season and we’ve been waiting for Mason to show up. He’s capable and he’s had good practices leading in, so that’s the one good takeaway we’ll have from tonight.”

Richardson does not intend to dwell on the loss, but said that repeated mental lapses on both ends of the floor cannot become a habit after what Crossroads has accomplished so far in the season.

Now 2-3 and coming off a bad loss, Richardson intends to regroup for a busy week, emphasizing maturity and composure in practice so that similar outings like Friday evening do not happen again.

“We have to grow up and we have to mature a little bit,” Richardson said. “We also have to get a little tougher inside. Butler really hurt us there, but he’s a really good player and we knew he was going to be tough coming in. [Head coach] Jesse Wilson does a great job with this team, so hats off to Grace.”

The first game on Crossroads’ schedule this week is a Tuesday evening matchup that takes place in Raleigh against Friendship Christian. The tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

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