There was one thing Slidell coach Dale Chimento was confident of as he and his victorious Tigers basketball team exited the Jesuit gym Thursday night.
It’s unlikely the Tigers will face much stiffer pressure than that supplied by the host Blue Jays in the final two minutes of the teams’ winners' bracket pairing in Day 2 of the Allstate Sugar Bowl CYO Tournament.
Leading by 10 points with 3½ minutes remaining, the Tigers survived three turnovers in the final 90 seconds to record a 56-54 victory when junior center Kolbe Warren deftly laid in a field goal in front of the goal with 1.4 seconds remaining.
Jesuit had tied the score at 54 with 14 seconds remaining when junior guard Elijah Morgan hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key following Slidell’s 19th turnover.
The Blue Jays had rallied from a 52-42 deficit in the final 3:34 behind the scoring of Morgan and forward Noah Varnado, who combined to score 11 of their team’s final 12 points.
Morgan led all scorers with 32 points that included 12 field goals and six 3-pointers.
Junior forward Tyler Harris and Warren paced the Tigers with 17 and 14 points, respectively, as Slidell recorded its fourth straight victory to improve to 5-2. Jesuit (2-1) suffered its first loss in three games.
Slidell now advances to face the winner of Thursday’s game between St. Paul’s and Fontainebleau in the second of two Friday semifinals games scheduled for the Jesuit gym.
Jesuit will be off until Saturday when the Blue Jays face the St. Paul’s-Fontainebleau loser in a 5 p.m. consolation pairing at Jesuit.
“It really would have been a tough one (to lose) had we not finished it off,’’ Slidell coach Dale Chimento said. “Jesuit is such a well-coached team and coach (Chris) Jennings is one of the finest coaches in the state, so our guys had to lift themselves up to play such a hard-nosed team.
“I thought we did very well until the end when we had trouble with their pressure. Usually, we’re pretty good at (handling pressure).’’
The Tigers and Blue Jays had traded leads through much of the first half before Jesuit moved out to a 38-29 advantage behind Morgan’s scoring. Slidell countered with Warren’s inside presence and Harris, who combined to score 17 of the Tigers’ 33 second-half points.
Slidell forced 18 turnovers of its own while committing 19.
“I liked our intensity on defense,’’ Chimento said. “We usually do that all of the time. Jesuit puts a lot of pressure on you. They’re so disciplined. So we’ve got to do a better job of handling the ball.’’
“They forced us into a lot of turnovers and we were able to force them into a lot of turnovers late, so that was good,’’ Jennings said. “We hung in there and made a game of it. I thought they made a nice adjustment of getting the the ball to (Warren) in the second half. They made a really nice adjustment in that.’’