Jesuit coach Chris Jennings likes his basketball team. More significantly, he likes its potential.
Translation: Beware the Blue Jays.
On an evening when each team’s defense made points hard to come by, forward Zachary Deblieux and his teammates had just enough scoring to open Catholic League play with a 36-35 District 9-5A victory against St. Augustine Friday night at the Jesuit gym.
Deblieux hit two clutch free throws with 36.5 seconds remaining to give Jesuit a 36-31 cushion and the Blue Jays withstood two final field goals by the Purple Knights to win their third straight outing and 12th in 15 games.
Deblieux and junior guard Elijah Morgan paced Jesuit’s offense with 10 points apiece and guard Will Landrieu chipped in six additional points via a pair of second-quarter 3-pointers.
“It was a tough game,’’ Jennings said. “There was some tremendous defense played on both ends of the court. We hung in there at the end. I thought we played tremendous defense. We played in the right spots. Other than fouls, we were in the right spots. And we rebounded well.’’
Deblieux scored eight of his 10 points in the second half that began with the Blue Jays holding a 21-16 lead at intermission that was reduced to a 27-27 tie by the end of the third period.
DeBlieux hit five of six free throws in the fourth quarter that produced Jesuit’s final points after a three-point play by forward Noah Varnado to open the fourth period put the Blue Jays ahead to stay at 30-27. Jesuit twice led by five in the final period.
“This is a good team,’’ Jennings said. “We knew we were going to be good. We’re just going to see how good we can get. But it’s a very competitive group.’’
Morgan grabbed a game-high 7 rebounds and Nick Artigues and Deblieux each had four, although St. Augustine finished with a 25-24 advantage on the boards.
Damon Landry scored 11 points, Brandon Bode had 7 and Smith and Bryson Celestine each contributed 6 points to St. Augustine’s cause.
The Blue Jays trailed only once in the game at 24-23 in the second quarter when St. Augustine forward Dante Smith hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with four minutes, 45 seconds remaining till intermission.
Deblieux answered immediately with a 3-pointer from the right side on Jesuit’s ensuing possession to give the Jays a lead they would not relinquish.
“Deblieux hit some big shots,’’ Jennings said. “He hit that big three and he hit his free throws at the end. He is one of our leaders.’’
Jesuit (12-3, 1-0) returns to Catholic League play with a Tuesday road game at Rummel.
St. Augustine (13-8, 1-1) wasted a golden opportunity for a 2-0 league start following its victory at John Curtis in each team’s district opener on Tuesday. The Purple Knights play at Ellender on Monday in a non-district game before returning to play host to Rummel on Friday.
Jesuit led from start to finish of a first half that ended with the hosts holding a 21-16 lead. Morgan scored almost half of that total with 10 points coming from a pair of 3-pointers and two other jump shots.
The Blue Jays led by as much as 10 in the second quarter following a first period in which an 8-0 start was highlighted by Morgan’s two 3-pointers to open the scoring. The period ended with Jesuit leading 8-4.