John Curtis’ third-seeded boys basketball team was 69 seconds away from its first appearance in the Class 3A semifinals in three seasons Friday night but trailed Evangel 63-62.
But Kai Morgan, an expected force with the outcome in doubt, and a pair of lesser heralded rebounders took charge and the Patriots defeated the Eagles 68-63 Friday night in Harahan.
John Curtis (23-7) advances to play Rayville in the Class 3A semifinals at Burton Coliseum next week. It marked the first time since 2012 that Curtis advanced to the semifinals.
“It’s a . . . wonderful feeling to get back to final four,” Curtis coach Mike Krajcer said. “We’ve had our chances the last couple of years but didn’t make it.
“This is probably the most workaholic group I’ve ever been around. Eight different players contributed immensely to this win.”
Morgan, who led Curtis with 24 points, scored the game’s final six points, but it would not have happened without contributions from Matt Nelson and Ryghe Lyons.
Morgan gave the Patriots the lead for good with a hard drive through traffic in the lane and layup off the glass. That gave Curtis the lead for good, 64-63, with :55 seconds remaining.
Nelson, a 6-foot-5 senior who had eight rebounds, grabbed a contested rebound on Evangel’s next miss and immediately found Morgan. Pass. Foul.
Morgan made both ends of the one-and-one and Curtis lead 66-63 with 35.1 seconds left.
Fifteen seconds later, Evangel (25-10, sixth-seeded) missed another shot, and Lyons grabbed it. He found Morgan. Pass. Foul.
Morgan made the second of two shots and Curtis led 67-63. Morgan finished the scoring with another free throw with three seconds remaining.
“Nelson has played great the last two games,” Krajcer said. “If he continues this, we’ll be pretty good.”
After a torrid shooting effort in the first quarter, Evangel struggled with 25.6 percent (10 of 39) shooting in the final three quarters. However, the Eagles, who are coached by Reni Mason, a former point guard at UNO under Tim Floyd, hit 20 of 23 free throws.
Curtis led by as much as 11 points, 46-35, two minutes deep into the second half. The Patriots had forged out a 62-55 lead with 3:15 to play but Evangel rallied once again.
Evangel’s C.J. Daniels scored a game-high 34 points, but 16 game in the first quarter. He had 22 at halftime.
“We rotated several players (to defend) him,” Krajcer said. “I think we wore him down. He looked tired at the end.”
Daniels took two of the three missed shots that fell into the hands of a couple of “workaholics” and led to Curtis’ points in the final minute.
“We’re really united as a team,” Krajcer said. “Hopefully it continues through the championship game.