Kai Morgan and Richard Durant never got going offensively at the same time, but they did enough to get the win.
After combining for 36 in the Patriots’ season-opening win over Hahnville, the duo scored 51 of their team’s 69 points to help John Curtis (3-0) to a 69-62 victory over Holy Cross (2-2) at Jesuit in the first day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl CYO Basketball Tournament.
“We’re better than we were to begin the season. We’re going to keep getting better,” Curtis coach Mike Krajcer said. “I thought we played well. Richard and Kai are really good players. They make it easier when they can do the kind of things they did tonight.”
A 9-2 run in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter gave Holy Cross an opportunity to steal the win at the end, which included a Xavian McKay steal and layup that cut the Patriots’ lead to 60-59 with 1:30 left. The Tigers had opportunities to take a hold of the lead at the end, but several strong defensive sequences by Durant on McKay prevented the Tigers from capitalizing.
Durant scored 29 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and added three rebounds and three steals.
“I was just trying to make plays for my team, and I was just making shots,” said Durant, who also hit six free throws in the final minute to ice the game.
Holy Cross cut the Patriots’ lead to 30-26 after a short jumper by McKay, but Morgan opened the third quarter making his first four shots of the period including three consecutive 3-pointers, to extend the Patriots lead to 41-29. Morgan was frustrated with his shooting in the first half, going 2-of-8 from the field, but Krajcer said that the young guard is still growing into his role.
Morgan finished with 22 points on 6-of-19 shooting from the field with seven rebounds and three assists.
“I’m asking Kai to do something he’s not used to,” Krajcer said. “I’m developing him to be the future point guard. So when Richard went down with his two fouls, I put it in Kai’s hands. He’s going to struggle, but the only way for him to get better is for him to struggle in games.”
Curtis jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter with a 14-3 run, powered by Morgan and Durant, who scored or assisted on 13 of the 14 points during the run. Durant continued the duo’s hot streak by scoring the first seven points of the second quarter. After Durant made a free throw to complete a four-point play, the Patriots took a 26-10 lead.
Durant scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field (including 4-of-4 on his 3-pointers) in the first half, despite missing much of the second quarter because of foul trouble.
“I always have a rule, if you pick up two fouls in the first half, you sit,” Krajcer said. “I told people this last year, and I’ll repeat it until he’s done playing for me: (Durant’s) the best point guard in the city.”
Durant exited early in the second quarter with two fouls, and Holy Cross pieced together a 14-4 run to end the quarter. Seven of those points came from guard Josh Williams, including three-pointers on back-to-back possessions before guard Noah Sciambra made two free throws to end the quarter and cut the Tigers’ deficit to 30-24 heading into halftime.
Williams had 15 points, going 4-of-7 on 3-pointers, and McKay led the Tigers with 21 points and five rebounds.
Krajcer said Curtis is without six of their players who are still playing football.