Many things change from year to year when it comes to high school basketball in New Orleans, but St. Augustine’s dominance over the Catholic League isn’t one of them.
The Purple Knights (15-6, 5-0 in District 9-5A play) led from wire-to-wire on their way to a 59-54 win over Brother Martin at home Tuesday night.
The Purple Knights — ranked No. 10 in the New Orleans Advocate boys Super 10 — have only lost twice in district games since the Catholic League re-assembled heading into the 2013 season and have beat the Crusaders (9-11, 1-3) in eight straight meetings.
“It took a lot of heart and effort tonight to get this win,” St. Aug coach Mitchell Johnson said. “Brother Martin is a very good ballclub. They play hard until the end.
“This was a great game, and I wouldn’t expect anything else when playing in the Catholic League.”
After trailing by eight points going into the second half, Brother Martin got more aggressive in an attempt to get back in the game. But every time the Crusaders got close, St. Aug had an immediate answer.
The Purple Knights never allowed their lead to shrink lower than five points for most of the second half, and most of the time St. Aug turned to forward Caleb Daniels whenever they needed a big basket.
The Crusaders cut their deficit to 57-54 with 13.4 seconds remaining after a Tyler Epps 3-pointer, but the Purple Knights got a layup from Patrick Smith as time expired to seal the win.
Daniels finished with a game-high 24 points, including 18 in the second half.
“In the second half, I just kept thinking about how bad I played in the first half and missing so many shots,” Daniels said. “I just wanted to do better in the second half, so I was more aggressive with the ball.”
After Brother Martin guard Tre Swilling had a career-high 31 points in a Crusaders loss to Rummel last week, St. Aug devoted much of its early attention to limiting the junior guard’s opportunities.
Swilling scored his only two points of the half on a layup with four seconds left before halftime. St. Aug’s lead grew as large as 22-9 in the second quarter. The Crusaders responded by looking inside to forwards Irv Smith and Bruce Jordan-Swilling, who combined for 14 points in the first half.
Swilling’s layup cut the Crusaders’ lead to 27-22, but the Purple Knights answered immediately with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Myles Samuel that made the score 30-22 at halftime.
Smith finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds on the night, while Swilling ended with seven points.
“I keep saying, until someone knocks (St. Aug) off they’re the (Class 9-5A) champions,” Brother Martin coach Chris Biehl said. “They came out with a good game plan, executed and made the plays in the end to win it.”
St. Aug now looks to a Friday road matchup against longtime rival McDonogh 35, the top team in the LHSAA’s Class 4A power rankings.
“Our mentality is to just go in there place and try to take over with high energy and intensity,” Daniels said. “If we can do that, we feel like we’ll have a good chance at winning.”