Brother Martin was on its third game in four days and trailing by double digits in the second half, but coach Chris Biehl never doubted his team could get back in the game.
The Crusaders (4-3) did just that, overcoming fatigue and a 17-point deficit to pull out an improbable 101-92 win over Hahnville in the first round of the Newman Invitational Tournament on Tuesday.
“There’s something about this group that’s kind of special,” Biehl said. “You can see they have a lot of fight in them. Everybody wants to win, but they show they are willing to go the extra mile to make it happen.”
Tre Swilling paced the Brother Martin attack, finishing with 22 points and seven assists, while Vance Burwell contributed 21 points off the bench. Forward Irv Smith also added 16 points and nine rebounds.
“This was big. We always talk about finishing and competing every game,” Swilling said. “It doesn’t matter if we played three of the last four days, we just have to come out and play as hard as we can everyday.”
After falling behind 73-57 midway through the third quarter, the Crusaders found a groove and clawed their way back into the game with a 29-6 run that extended into the fourth quarter and ended with a Pattre’en Hughes layup that gave Martin an 86-79 lead.
The Tigers (4-3) were able to get within two points after a Christian McKinney 3-pointer made the score 94-92 with 22 seconds left, but Brother Martin converted two steals into layups late to thwart the Tigers comeback and seal the win.
“We’re a team that’s growing, a bunch of our guys are just coming back from football and cross country,” Biehl said. “We’ve been down by double digits at halftime in our last three games and won two of them, so that says a lot about our toughness.”
Hahnville attacked Brother Martin with its relentless full-court pressure early and the Crusaders had no answer for it, turning the ball over 10 times in the first quarter.
The Tigers also knocked down six 3-pointers, but were only able to take a 31-22 lead after the first quarter.
The Crusaders cut down on their turnovers in the second quarter, but still struggled to keep up with the Hahnville pace of play and fell behind 56-41 following a layup by DeAnte Sumlin. But, Martin scored five straight points to end the quarter and went into halftime trailing 56-46.
Mason Aucoin led the way for Hahnville, scoring 24 points, while McKinney also had 16 points and five steals.
“We were playing very well in the first half, but they made some adjustments at halftime and we didn’t do a good job of answering,” first-year Hahnville coach Rick Spring said.
The Tigers came into Tuesday averaging 91.8 points per game over the team’s past five contests, and forced the Crusaders to play their style, but Spring said too many careless mistakes cost the team in the end.
“We just lost our composure there in the second half,” he said. “We lost the discipline of where we’re supposed to be on defense, it was three-minute spurt where Brother Martin got back in the game, and we just have to do a better job finishing.”
Brother Martin will go on to play the winner of McDonogh 35-Country Day game on Thursday.