In a highly anticipated matchup between reigning state champions, this one lived up to the billing.
On Tuesday, in the first round of the Newman Invitational Tournament, De La Salle and Country Day went back and forth — but the Cavaliers' Jalen and Jalen duo came out ahead.
Jalen Henry scored 24 points, Jalen Ned chipped in 18 and De La Salle edged Country Day 64-59 in a game that was delayed 45 minutes because the officials were running late.
For the Cavaliers, the defending Division II state champions, the win was a bounceback after they had lost to St. Paul's in the finals of the Catholic Youth Organization tournament last Saturday.
The win could also give momentum to a team trying to replace four of last year’s starters. De La Salle coach Paul Kelly said while he was happy with the win, his team must still improve.
“We need to get a lot better,” he said. “I thought we had a very strong effort from five of our players, and that’s just not how we play. We need to get seven and eight guys with a really focused effort.
“I’m super-proud of the team. We stayed together. It was a strange day with the early delays in the tournament. Country Day is a tremendous program, a state championship team, and it’s always gonna be a battle when we play them. So (it's) no surprise it came down to the last minute of the game, and we were just fortunate to make a few more plays than they did at the end.”
As for the Cajuns, the reigning Division III state champions, the game was something of a setback. They, too, are trying to move forward after having lost all five of last year's starters.
Still, coach Mike McGuire was optimistic afterward.
“De La Salle is very good,” he said. “They do a great job of kicking and penetrating with those 3s. They killed us at the 3-point line and the free-throw line. I thought we did a nice job inside, but we just missed too many easy ones late.
"We’ll recover. We’re in football shape, and we’re trying to get in basketball shape against a very good team, but I liked our effort. I thought we gave them a fight, but they were a little better tonight.
The first half was nearly neck-and-neck as the Cavs held a 34-31 advantage at the horn. With the game tied, Shawn Royal managed to throw down a slam dunk just before the buzzer went off at the end of the third quarter to give the Cajuns a 50-48 lead. Royal had 23 points.
The teams continued to battle until De La Salle's Abriam Frye made it a four-point game with 1:12 to go. The Cajuns were unable to retake the lead, allowing the Cavs to advance.