Dethroning defending Catholic League champion St. Augustine won’t be easy.
Just ask the Conlin Crazies, Brother Martin’s noisy student section that watched the Purple Knights rally in the fourth quarter for a 49-46 victory over the Crusaders.
“This team is young, but we’re tough,” said St. Aug senior forward Charles Brown. “We play hard and we just never give up.”
Brown and Caleb Daniels finished with 13 points apiece to lead St. Augustine (18-4, 3-0), ranked No. 4 in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10.
It was the 12th consecutive Catholic League victory for St. Aug, dating to last season.
This one, pitting teams undefeated in district play, had a championship game feel, which may explain why some of the Purple Knight students rushed the floor to celebrate the come-from behind victory.
St. Aug trailed 27-21 at halftime and 44-37 with 3:16 left.
“At halftime, I challenged the guys,” St. Aug coach Mitchell Johnson said. “We were facing a little adversity, but we had to find a way to get the ‘W.’ It was like a playoff game.
“You’re on the road, and you just have to find a way to get it done.”
They did just that, holding the No. 7 Crusaders (16-6, 1-1) to just two points over the final three minutes.
The Purple Knights finished 6 of 8 from the free-throw line in the final 1:16.
Brown sank a pair of free throws with 1:16 left to give St. Aug its first lead, 45-44, since the first quarter. It came just moments after St. Aug’s Kelvin Jackson drained a momentum-swinging 3-pointer that cut the Purple Knight’s deficit to 44-43.
The Purple Knights never trailed again.
“We just did a good job of getting stops,” said Johnson. “This is new for a lot of these guys.
“It’s their first time playing in an environment like this, playing in a high level of competition like this. I’m so proud of them.”
The first half belonged to Brother Martin sophomore Tre Swilling.
Swilling, the son of former New Orleans Saints linebacker Pat Swilling, got off to a fast start.
The sophomore knocked down four 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 13 points at halftime to help the Crusaders build a 27-21 lead.
Three of his 3-pointers came in the second quarter during a 2½ minute stretch. His third 3-pointer of the quarter made it 23-16 with 3:32 left in the half. Irv Smith then scored in the lane to give Brother Martin a 25-16 lead, its largest lead of the game.
The Purple Knights rallied in the third, outscoring the Crusaders 12-8 in the quarter. A pair of free throws by Brown in the final seconds cut it to 35-33, setting up the fourth quarter comeback.
“We failed to execute our offense,” Brother Martin coach Chris Biehl said. “There was a period in the third quarter where it felt like we went forever without a basket. St. Aug does what St. Aug does. But I think it was a valuable lesson. This is a bad time to be learning a lesson though.”
Swilling led the Crusaders with 17 points and Venjie Wallis finished with nine.
“It was an awful job of shot selection, which is funny because if you had asked me before the game what our strength is I would’ve said shot selection,” Biehl said.
Jordan Sweed finished with seven points, and Devante Jones had six for the Purple Knights.
“It’s tough being the defending league champs,” Brown said. “You know everybody is coming at you.
“But we just stick to the game plan and do what coach asks us to do.”