LAKE CHARLES – Early in the third quarter, No. 2 St. Augustine was reeling as No. 6 Brother Martin surged ahead, but the Purple Knights rallied and held on down the stretch to win 42-40 in the Division I semifinals Thursday at the LHSAA Marsh Madness state tournament.
“The great thing about basketball is that it is four quarters,” St. Augustine coach Mitchell Johnson said. “You go into half and try to figure out what your point is and make the adjustments.
“They (Brother Martin) started off the third quarter and scored a few baskets and kind of punched us in the face a little bit. We stumbled a little bit. We were able to regain some strength and make some plays down the stretch when we needed it.”
It was the fourth time the two Catholic League teams had met this season, but it proved to be the toughest. St. Augustine (30-4) won all three regular season matchups, two by more than 23 points, but Thursday’s game ended up being similar to the last time the two teams met in the semifinals. Brother Martin won that game in 33-32 in overtime in 2017.
“It was a tough game,” Johnson said. “Playing a team for the fourth time, you knew they were going to come with some different things and I have to give Coach (Chris Biehl) and them credit. They did a great job of disrupting what we wanted to do early.”
The loss ended a four-game win streak for Brother Martin (18-17).
“My boys gave me all they had,” said Biehl, Brother Martin’s coach. head coach “I can’t ask for the boys to give me more than what they have.
“It was a roller coaster year. It was probably one of the toughest seasons that we have ever experienced, at least I have in about 15 years. We went through a short period where we lost seven games in about 10 days. We could have quit and folded it in. Everyone in the arena tonight saw what these boys are made of. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Brother Martin started the second half with an 8-2 run. Junior guard T.J. Small hit a pair of 3-pointers, including one with 4:51 left in the third quarter that gave the Crusaders a 24-15 lead.
St. Augustine regrouped and used its defense to turn the game around. Brother Martin made just one field goal over the final 3:21 of the quarter and the Knights went on a 15-2 run.
“The second half we made little adjustments and figured it out,” Johnson said. “We were able to make some stops.
“It wasn’t about shots, it was about stops. We got multiple stops and then we got in a little rhythm.”
Senior Devon Jefferson led the surge with nine of his game-high 15 points. His only 3-pointer of the game put the Knights up for good 28-26 with 1:17 left in the third quarter.
“It is what we expected,” Jefferson said. “We made stops and the stops made offensive plays.”
Brother Martin turned the ball over three times in the quarter and the Knights turned it into nine points.
“I felt like we got a little bit away from our game plan,” Biehl said. “But we also felt like we could push the floor, especially when Victor (Tomlinson) was on the floor, especially on the side lines.
“But a couple of times we went to push the ball up the side line and had the wrong guy in the wrong spot or they did a good job of denying that first pass.”
Tomlinson powered his way down the right side of the lane for two points and hit a free throw after getting fouled to cut the Knights’ lead to 31-29 with 3:21 left, but the Crusaders couldn’t get any closer.
There were six lead changes in the first half as both teams struggled to score consistently. St. Augustine shot 22.7 percent while Brother Martin shot just 20 percent.
“We were all nervous because it was our first time being here and playing in this atmosphere,” St. Augustine guard Damon Landry said. “We knew that we didn’t want to go home.
“We were nervous because we were not expecting the zone. We were very nervous as a team but we got the butterflies out at halftime. We were forced to pick up our intensity and play harder and aggressive.”
Despite making just 1 of 10 shots in the first quarter, Brother Martin led the entire second quarter.
Small hit two free throws with 5:23 left in the first half for a 7-6 lead. He added a 3-pointer three minutes later for a four-point lead. Small finished with 14 points and Dillon Delatte added 13.
But turnovers kept the Crusaders from pulling away after committing eight in the second quarter.