Bucks County Herald

Boys basketball:

Solebury’s Cleve Christie gets milestone win

DON LEYPOLDT



The Solebury Spartans gather with head coach Cleve Christie following his 500th career win last Saturday. The Spartans defeated Pennington School 54-51 in the third-place game of the 10th annual Tip-Off Tournament.

Three hundred is a number synonymous with Spartans.

For the Solebury Spartans, 500 is a more appropriate integer.

With Solebury’s (1-1) Saturday 54-51 defeat of Pennington School (0-2) in the third-place game of the Spartans’ 10th annual Tip-Off Tournament, longtime head coach Cleve Christie earned his 500th career win.

The Spartans used a big second quarter to take a 33-23 lead into halftime. Luca Naughton led all scorers with 20 points while Ryan Conde added 17.

The contest was a rematch of last season’s Tip-Off final, where the Spartans prevailed 68-64. A 13-13 season last year left Christie hanging with 499 career “W”s.

Christie started coaching Solebury in the 1983-1984 season. To put that in perspective: Christie’s first campaign at Solebury is chronologically closer to Bob Cousy’s senior year at Holy Cross then Solebury’s current season.

“You have to change a lot because we don’t get the players in,” Christie mused on Friday after Solebury opened their season with a 62-42 loss to George School. “That means you have to do more coaching with less. But the kids that we have are good and you hope that we can take the positive out of it.”

The Cougars, who won the Tip-Off by topping Princeton Day 67-59, ended the Solebury game on a 24-9 run.

“I didn’t get on them that much because I know everybody was giving maximum energy,” Christie explained. “They just need to know where to focus during the game and I know they’ll get better.”

Turnovers plagued the Spartans in the opening frame and George School led 15-8 after the first quarter. Javon Brewster assisted a Naughton bucket and Conde followed with a three-point play to cut the lead to 15-13.

George School’s Charlie Trey-Masters indeed mastered the trey on Friday. His 3, one of five on the night, gave George School a 26-20 lead. Solebury closed the gap with two Brewster free throws and a Naughton three at the buzzer. The hosts trailed just 26-25 at halftime.

“In the second quarter, we came together as a team more,” explained Troy McGregor. “We didn’t play as individuals, but instead as one. That helped us.”

McGregor’s driving bucket cut the George School lead to 38-33, but the Cougars answered with a Trey-Masters’ three and an Onias Outlaw layup. Solebury trailed 45-35 after three quarters.

“They’re a lot better than they were last year,” Christie noted. “They got a lot more players and we only got one kid in: Devon (Brewster’s) younger brother. I was hoping we could do it defensively and we could try and contain them. We turned the ball over too much. We were kind of careless – always trying to go for the home run and when you needed to make two passes to go somewhere.

“But hopefully we learn from it. I’m very optimistic,” Christie concluded.

Naughton’s 18 led Solebury while McGregor added a dozen points and five assists. Conde added four assists. “Coach wanted us to play as one, as brothers. He wanted us to motivate and cheer each other,” Naughton said Friday.

The Spartans return four starters. One-thousand point scorer Devon Brewster now suits up for Southern Wesleyan, joining Nyack’s Curtis Thompson as Solebury alums currently playing Division II basketball.

“I have to step up a lot more because obviously Devon scored a lot,” Naughton said. “We have to share the load.”

Naughton showed balance with three treys and four two-point buckets against George School.

“I feel like my role changed,” McGregor admitted. “I have to take a lot more shots than I did last year. It’s a little uncomfortable but I think I can handle it.”

“I like the guys we have on the team and I think they just have to do some little things,” Christie said. “It was the little things that killed us: guarding the three-point line and recognizing the shooters. Not relaxing. You can’t relax on defense.”

Few coaches are as qualified as Christie to help his charges learn those little things. Christie’s career highlights include beating national power St. Anthony – the home of Bobby and Danny Hurley – and coaching a 1,000-point scorer turned Fulbright Scholar in Malcolm Ingram.

“(Christie) means a lot. He has definitely made me the player that I am,” Naughton reflected. “I came in and I was a way different player than I am now so I feel like, throughout these four years, it’s completely changed. I feel like I’m ready for college.”

“He’s an important factor in my life. Coach is a father figure to all of us. We really wanted to get this win done for him. Hopefully we can get it done for him tomorrow,” McGregor noted prophetically on Friday.

The 300 Spartans at Thermopylae fought valiantly, but didn’t win. Five hundred times Christie’s Spartans of Solebury had a far more victorious outcome.




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