The first time St. Augustine played De La Salle this season, Purple Knights coach Mitchell Johnson didn’t think his team came in focused enough to win.
But the Cavaliers (6-3) had their full attention on Thursday, as the Purple Knights (7-2) avenged their early-season loss with a 61-55 win in the second round of the Newman Invitational tournament.
St. Aug advances to play the winner of Thursday’s Brother Martin/Country Day game in the semifinals on Friday.
“The biggest difference was our intensity this game,” St. Aug forward Caleb Daniels said. “We played with a lot of energy and did the little things that got us the ‘W’ tonight.”
De La Salle beat St. Aug 73-57 on Dec. 4 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl CYO tournament, but Johnson said his team’s focus coming into Thursday was doing a better job of controlling the tempo and forcing the Cavaliers to play his team’s style of game.
Daniels led the Purple Knights with 19 points and 10 rebounds on 6-of-14 shooting. DeVante Jones, who scored 21 points in the first meeting, was held to seven points and eight rebounds.
“It says a lot about our team to step up to the challenge, because De La Salle is an excellent ball club,” Johnson said. “We had a little rest coming in, because we played four games in five nights last time we saw them, but today it was all about our focus and intensity.”
After combining for 56 points in the first half, both teams began to pick up the pace coming out of halftime, combining to score 47 points in the third quarter alone.
But things slowed down once again in the fourth quarter, and despite holding St. Aug without a field goal for a six-minute stretch, De La Salle was unable to score enough at the end to pull off the win.
Daniels’ dunk with 45 seconds left ended the St. Aug drought on offense and gave them a 59-53 lead that, for the most part, put the game away.
Dashawn Wright finished with 14 points and five steals for the Cavaliers.
“I think you have to give a ton of credit to St. Aug, those guys came out determined and played really hard,” said De La Salle coach Paul Kelly. “I thought our kids played hard, but we didn’t execute the way we needed to.”
The Purple Knights gave De La Salle trouble with their length and athleticism for the majority of the first half, outrebounding the Cavaliers 26-13 through the first two quarters.
St. Aug utilized it’s advantage in the paint to build a 26-21 lead late in the second quarter after a Sai Fisher layup, but De La Salle went on an 8-1 run to end quarter.
A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Ahmad Taylor gave the Cavaliers a 29-27 lead going into halftime.