St. Augustine has defeated Jesuit three times in as many games this season, with none more important than victory No. 3 for the reigning Catholic League basketball champions.
Riding a balanced scoring attack that featured 14 and 10 points from guards Damon Landry and Devon Jefferson, the Purple Knights recorded a hard-fought 49-42 District 9-5A victory against the host Blue Jays on Friday night.
St. Augustine (26-4, 8-2) moved within two victories of a successful defense of its Catholic League crown that would represent the Purple Knights’ fifth in six seasons under coach Mitchell Johnson.
The Purple Knights do face competition beyond their final two home games versus John Curtis and Rummel, however. Holy Cross (26-5, 8-2) entered Friday night sharing first in the district with Jesuit.
In beatting the Blue Jays, the Knights broke fast taking a 15-8 lead that inched to 27-18 at halftime before going on a 15-10 run at the start of the fourth period that produced a 14-point lead with 38 seconds left. Jesuit got no closer than six in those final frantic seconds, despite a game-high 25 points from All-Metro guard Elijah Morgan.
“What a game,’’ Johnson said. “It’s the Catholic League and anything can happen. coach (Chris) Jennings is a hell of a coach. I didn’t expect anything less than a dogfight. And that’s what it was. St. Augustine-Jesuit, what else do you expect?’’
Jesuit (27-5, 8-3) entering having won six straight games dating to a 65-46 loss at St. Augustine on Jan. 15. The Blue Jays, who came within a point of the Purple Knights in a 53-52 loss in Chalmette Valero Christmas Classic Tournament final in December, were seeking to gain the inside track on their first Catholic League championship since 2013.
“We had a poor start,’’ said Jennings whose teams closes league play Tuesday at Brother Martin. “But we made some adjustments. We fought back. We just couldn’t make a shot. I thought the third quarter was key, particularly the beginning of it. We made some stops on them. We just didn’t make any shots. You’ve got to make shots.’’
Jefferson scored all 10 of his points in the second half to help the Knights forge a 48-34 lead that came via a field goal by Darius Henry with 38 seconds remaining.
Center Jalvin Mitchell and guard Dante’ Smith each scored six points for the Knights while Henry scored four, but also contributed a game-high nine rebounds as the Knights enjoyed a 29-25 advantage on the boards.
The Knights also shot a blistering 14 of 16 from the free throw line compared to Jesuit’s 11 of 19.
“We played with a lot of intensity and effort,’’ Jefferson said. “This was a great win. Jesuit is a great team. And I think they pushed us to the limit.’’
“I think we made stops when we needed and we made free throws,’’ Johnson said. “We weathered the storm. At this point I’m not concerned about a Catholic League championship. We want to play for a state championship and we want to win a state championship.’’