Brother Martin junior forward Irv Smith got his first career start Friday night.
He’ll probably stay in the starting line-up for a while now.
Smith buried a short jumper with 58 seconds left that put Brother Martin up to stay, helping cap a thrilling 46-42 come-from behind victory over Jesuit in a pivotal Catholic League game Friday night.
“I had been coming off the bench strong and coach believed in me,” said the 6-foot-3 Smith. “I got an and-one to start the game and that gave me a little momentum. We knew we had to come out here and just finish.”
Smith finished with a team-high 13 points.
The Crusaders (19-7, 4-2) , ranked No. 10 in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10, rallied from a second half double-digit deficit to earn the season sweep over the Blue Jays (15-8, 4-3).
“I’m so proud of my boys,” Brother Martin coach Chris Biehl said. “They could have quit.”
But perhaps they couldn’t after getting some inspiration from Father Paul Hart during a service mass at the school earlier in the day.
Hart retold the story of the Brother Martin team that won a national championship more than four decades ago, rallying from a 16-point hole.
“He talked to them about how you have to keep fighting,” Biehl said. “At the end of the third quarter, I recalled that to all the boys. Crusaders don’t quit. They keep fighting.”
The Brother Martin’s deficit wasn’t quite as large as that one. They trailed 35-28 headed into the fourth after being down 35-24 late in the third.
They kept chipping away and chipping way.
Travis Epps banked in a 3-pointer with 4:12 left in the game that cut it to 39-37 and sending the Conlin Crazies, Brother Martin’s noisy student section, into a frenzy.
Luke Walker later tied with a pair of free throws.
Jesuit’s Trey LaForge put the Blue Jays up 42-41 with 1:25 left before Smith’s short jumper with 58 seconds left gave Brother Martin its first lead since the second quarter.
“The only reason we haven’t started Irv is because we have so many other players,” Biehl said. “He stepped up like a champion tonight.”
Jared West, an All-Metro running back for Brother Martin, sank 3 of 4 free throws in the final 46 seconds to seal it.
“We lost five games with a lead, so it’s nice to see us get that one-point lead and gut it out,” Biehl said.”
Smith, a tight end for Brother Martin, made all five of his free throws in the game as well.
Early on, it was a pair of Jesuit football players who dominated.
LaForge, who in December quarterbacked Jesuit to its first football title since 1960, finished with a game-high 21 points. Moreau, a tight end who signed with LSU on Wednesday, finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks. He reached double figures in rebounds before the midway point of the first half. He had 12 of his rebounds by halftime to go with his nine points.
But Smith and company were able to keep Moreau off the boards in the second half.
The Crusaders won despite going the entire second quarter without a field goal.
Now they are stand just a game behind St. Augustine in the District 9-5A standings.
“The reality is, we don’t have time to celebrate,” Biehl said. “We have to get back grounded and get ready for the next one.”