John Curtis point guard Richard Durant did not start Tuesday’s critical District 11-3A matchup game against De La Salle.
But, Durant and teammate Kai Morgan finished it with emphasis as John Curtis defeated the Cavaliers 80-72 in River Ridge.
In a span of 15 seconds in the final minute, Durant had three assists — one after a steal and two after he picked up loose balls — as Curtis turned a 70-70 tie into a 77-70 Patriots’ lead.
Morgan, who poured in 41 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Curtis, hit a 3-point basket on assist from Durant to make it 73-70 with 55 seconds remaining.
Durant followed with a steal and layup and Morgan hit a bucket from the corner to make it 77-70 with 41.3 seconds left.
“Strange things happen,” Curtis coach Mike Kracjer said moments after his team clinched the district title. “Good things happen when we throw the ball to the right team.”
Curtis (20-7, 7-0) fell behind early and trailed by as much as 13 points in the first half.
De La Salle (20-5) is 4-2 with two league games remaining.
“We made too many mistakes in the first half,” Kracjer said. “We talked about it at halftime and played with better defensive intensity and hand handled the ball a lot better.”
It was a 10-0 spurt midway through the third period that got Curtis back in the game, turning a 48-37 De La Salle advantage in to a 48-47 deficit with 4:28 remaining the period. Durant’s 3-point field goal gave Curtis its first lead of the game, 55-54, with 2:20 left in the period.
Morgan scored 12 points in the third period, 28 in the second half. He and Dantae Jones (seven points) sparked the third period rally.
Durant, who averages 21 points and 4.3 assists per game, sat out the first quarter because of a violation of team rules.
De La Salle took a quick 6-2 lead and twice expanded the margin to seven points in the opening quarter. The Cavaliers led 20-14 at quarter’s end.
Durant started the second period and scored 10 points during the quarter, but the Cavaliers held a 43-33 halftime lead. There were 23 fouls in the first half.
The Cavs made 11 of 15 free throws, Curtis 11 of 17.
It was the Cavs’ defensive pressure and the presence of the 6-foot-6 David Williams underneath that gave Curtis the most trouble. Williams, who had numerous offensive rebounds, scored 11 points in the first half.
The game has playoff implications. Curtis is ranked sixth in the latest unofficial 3A power rankings and De La Salle eighth.
Curtis won the first meeting between the two teams, 94-93 in overtime.
“This was great game,” Kracjer said. “(De La Salle) is one very good basketball team.
“This was better (than the first game). At least I got to relax for about 30 seconds tonight.”
The game will be rebroadcast at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday on WHNO-TV 20 in New Orleans.