LAFAYETTE — St. Augustine used a frenetic, fastbreak offense to race past Natchez 63-33 in an opening-round game at St. Thomas More’s Sunkist Shootout on Friday.
A combination of long arms and impressive athleticism helped the Purple Knights thwart the Bulldogs in the first half, building a lead Natchez could never catch up to.
“We just wanted to come out of Christmas break and be able to set our tone and tempo,” St. Augustine coach Mitch Johnson said. “Just wanted to play St. Augustine basketball.
In another tournament game, Brother Martin downed St. Thomas Aquinas 70-47.
St. Augustine shot 64 percent from the field while scoring 42 of its 63 points in the paint.
Natchez coach David Haywood said the Purple Knights were deceiving, not looking like the fastest team, but always blowing by the Bulldogs players on the perimeter.
Despite the margin of victory, Johnson said he wanted more from his team, trying to make sure they learned something from the game.
“I’m trying to teach them how to finish games,” Johnson said. “We can’t give anyone opportunities to sneak back in, have to learn how to finish them out.”
St. Augustine senior forward Charles Brown III led the Purple Knights, finishing off several fast breaks and using his 6-foot-6 frame to bully players inside.
Brown finished with a double-double in only 16 minutes, scoring 18 points on eights shots and contributing 10 rebounds.
The Bulldogs tried to counteract the Purple Knights athleticism with a full-court press, but St. Aug’s ball handlers consistently broke the press.
Johnson said going into the tournament he thought teams would attempt to press the Purple Knights to disrupt their rhythm.
Senior guard Tracy Nash used his ballhandling and speed to break the initial pressure and then made smart decisions with the ball once the Bulldogs defense was scrambling to find open cutters and spot up shooters.
“As long as we’re able to handle pressure and make the plays we should be able to handle it,” Johnson said.
Sophomore guard Caleb Daniels contribute 11 points in 16 minute.
The fast pace of the game forced the Purple Knights to dip into their deep bench, with every player on the roster receiving time.
Early foul trouble hurt St. Augustine, as Natchez continuously attacked the basket to try to stay in the game. Daryl Jones led the charge, scoring 12 points.
“We wanted to put pressure on the goal offensively to try and take control of some of the tempo,” Haywood said. “But we missed too many of the foul shots.”
“They are a tough team, mentally and physically. Very well coached, they make smart passes, finish at the rim and make their free throws. Just a solid team.”
The Purple Knights move on to play Ellender, which beat Acadiana 41-38, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
BROTHER MARTIN 70, ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 47: Bruce Jordan-Swilling’s double-double led Brother Martin past St. Thomas Aquinas.
Jordan-Swilling had 17 points and 10 rebounds and the Crusaders held a 40-14 edge in rebounds. Brother Martin had 17 offensive rebounds that led to 16 second-chance points. Jordan-Swilling led the way with five offensive rebounds, and Luke Walker added four.
Brother Martin held a 29-20 lead at halftime and never trailed in the second half. Venjie Wallis joined Jordan-Swilling in double figures with 12.
St. Thomas Aquinas had no answer for the Brother Martin defense, shooting just 40 percent from the field.
Hunter Gebbia led the Falcons with 13 points and Edward Cormier added 10. The Falcons turned the ball over 18 times.
Nick Fontenot contributed to this report