Even with one of St. Augustine’s key players, guard DeVante Jones, playing sparingly because of a foot injury, the Purple Knights hardly missed a step in their District 9-5A game at Holy Cross on Friday night.
Playing aggressive defense, the Purple Knights made it difficult for the Tigers to score. Offensively, center Patrick Smith easily picked up the slack for Jones, as St. Augustine won 54-39 in the district’s second-round opener.
With Smith scoring a game-high 16 points and Caleb Daniels scoring 15, St. Aug (17-7, 7-0) remained unbeaten in district play. Holy Cross (10-15, 2-5) lost its third straight game.
“Before the game, coach (Mitchell Johnson) told me to focus on three things rebounding, catching the ball and finishing and protecting the rim,” Smith said. “That’s what I tried to do.
“Defensively, we played some (man-to-man), then went to a 2-1-2 and a 2-3, and we were very active.”
Jones, St. Aug’s second-leading scorer behind Daniels, injured his foot in practice this week and was kept on the bench for most of the game as a precaution, scoring three points. However, he is expected to play Tuesday against John Curtis.
The Tigers had their best offensive showings in the third quarter, when they scored 12 pointsand in the fourth, when they had 16. However, they found themselves falling further behind, as St. Aug led 54-31 with two minutes left.
“We allowed too many second shots,” Holy Cross coach Mister Kirkwood said. “(St. Augustine) is the best team in the district, so you can’t allow that to happen.”
Taking control early, the Purple Knights led 27-11 at halftime as their offense caught up to a defense that allowed little in the lane nor offensive rebounds.
Daniels, who led St. Augustine with 11 points, took over in the second quarter when he scored seven of the Knights’ nine points.
St. Augustine seized control from the start, scoring the game’s first six points. Then, leading 8-4, the Purple Knights went on a 10-0 run and ended the first quarter leading 18-7.
“I tried to come out with more intensity than I’d been playing with in the last few games because I hadn’t been showing what I really can do,” Daniels said.
Although Daniels finished with 10 rebounds and Smith seven, Smith was the early catalyst, getting offensive rebounds that led to layups and free throws, while St. Aug sputtered before warming up from the outside. Smith scored seven of his nine first-half points in the first quarter.
Johnson said the play of Smith, particularly early, was a key.
“We call Pat ‘Chief,’ ” Johnson said. “I was very happy with his energy. He supported us when we needed him.”
St. Augustine 54, Holy Cross 39
St. Augustine 18 9 11 16 - 54
Holy Cross 7 4 12 16 - 39
Scoring: St. Augustine: Patrick Smith 16, Caleb Daniels 15, Sci Fisher 11, Myles Samuel 6, DeVante Jones 3, Cedric Jones 2, Bryson Celestine 1; Holy Cross: Xavian McKay 12, Andrew Nora 8, Josh Metoyer 7, Noah Sciambra 6, Albion Ford 4, Collin Stevens 2.