Kai Morgan wrapped up a spectacular second half with a key steal and two free throws in the final minute, then Dontae Jones added two game-clinching free throws with 9.2 seconds remaining as John Curtis defeated Country Day 71-68 Friday at Country Day.
It was the regular-season finale for two teams likely to be high seeds when the state playoffs begin next week.
“This is why we play this last game against Country Day every year,” Curtis coach Mike Krajcer said. “This was a playoff atmosphere.”
Curtis (22-7) is ranked sixth in The New Orleans Advocate’s Super 10 and is ranked fifth among Class 3A schools in the unofficial power rankings. Defending 1A state champion Country Day (21-7) is eighth in the Super 10 and ranked fourth in the unofficial 1A power rankings.
“I don’t care about the power rankings,” Krajcer said. “We wanted to get ready for what is ahead of us, and Country Day plays at a level that prepares us for that.”
Morgan scored all 19 of his points in the second half, but his biggest play came when he grabbed a deflected pass in the final 50 seconds.
Richard Durant, who led all scorers with 24 points, scored on a driving layup to put Curtis back in the lead, 67-66 with 49 seconds to play. It was his only field goal of the second half.
The Country Day inbound pass was deflected and Morgan grabbed the ball. He was fouled and sank both shots to make it 69-66 with 47.4 seconds left.
Shawn Anderson added two more free throws with 9 seconds remaining before Country Day’s J.C. Younger scored just before the final horn.
Durant scored 17 of his points in the first quarter, 21 in the first half.
“Richard went off on us in the first half,” Country Day coach Mike McGuire said. “We were able to quiet him down and then Kai went off in the second half.”
In the first quarter, Curtis rode Durant’s 17-point quarter to a 20-14 advantage. Durant made four of six 3-point attempts in the first quarter.
His spinning 360-degree lay-in with the left hand gave Curtis a 14-7 lead. Durant capped the quarter with a 60-foot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Jones also made a buzzer-beating 25-foot 3 pointer just before the end of the third period.
Both followed Country Day turnovers.
“We had two many unforced turnovers and we’ve got to clean that up before we play again,” McGuire said.
The Patriots led by as many as 10 points at 17-7 in the first quarter.
Michael Corchiani’s cuts and drives to the basket in the final three minutes of the second quarter produces Country Day’s last six points of the half and pulled the Cajuns to a point, 33-32 at halftime. He finished with 15 as did center Walker Bright.
Bright scored seven of his points in the third quarter and Country Day led 50-48 after three.