St. Augustine coach Mitchell Johnson challenged point guard Devante Jones during Friday’s practice to step up in Saturday’s District 9-5A game at Brother Martin.
Jones met the challenge. He helped get St. Augustine off to a good start with nine first-half points and finished with a team-high 19 as the Purple Knights held off the Crusaders 49-45 to remain unbeaten in district.
“He told me I step up and be a leader, and I just tried to play my hardest,” Jones said. “I had a lot of opportunities to get my teammates open, and when I had chances to score, I tried to score.”
It was the third win this season against Brother Martin (18-11, 6-4) for St. Augustine (22-7, 11-0), which beat the Crusaders in the CYO Tourament and at St. Aug.
However, behind post player Irving Smith, who finished with a game-high 22 points, the Crusaders had a chance at the end.
Brother Martin trailed 45-34 with 2:02 remaining. It went on a 9-0 run to close to 45-43 with 31 seconds left.
Smith, a tight end who signed with Alabama, had a 3-pointer, a steal and two drives in the run.
St. Aug’s Caleb Daniels sank two free throws with 18.9 seconds left, and guard Sai Fisher made two with 9.4 showing to seal the victory.
Daniels scored 15 points, including a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer-beater that extended the Knights’ lead to 35-28.
“I thought that was big,” Brother Martin coach Chris Biehl said.
Biehl said a key to St. Aug’s win was it did a good job against the Crusaders’ post-up players, who usually power them to victory.
“No. 35 (Pat Smith), 25 (Drew Delatte) and 21 (Daniels) allowed us one clean look in the post,” Biehl said.
St. Aug led 24-18 at halftime, its shot-blocking ability nullifying Brother Martin’s usually effective post-up game while also being able to run with the Crusaders.
The Knights shot out to an 8-2 lead on the way to a 15-6 margin at the end of the first quarter.
Brother Martin closed to 15-11 34 seconds into the second quarter, but Fisher made a 3-pointer from the left corner than pushed the margin to seven.
The Crusaders closed to 20-16 on a three-point play by Jordan-Swilling with 2:16 left. However, Jones drove for two baskets to keep St. Aug in front.