The most bitter of rivals, the St. Augustine and Cathedral Catholic high school boys basketball teams are smack dab in the middle of rebuilding their programs.
St. Augustine, though, is a year ahead of the Dons, and it showed Tuesday night in a Western League game at Cathedral.
In an entertaining, high-octane matchup, the Saints overcame a nine-point, third-quarter deficit and squeezed out a 57-54 win.
Trailing 55-46 with 1:10 to play in the third period, St. Augustine drew even with 5:05 to go on a basket by Chibuzo Agbo.
The Saints built the lead to five with 1:04 to play, then things got wild.
Scotty Prunty hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to cut the Dons’ deficit to two with 50 seconds remaining.
After the Saints missed the front end of a one-and-one with 19 seconds to go, Cathedral had a chance. But the Dons turned the ball over with 1.1 seconds to play and down by two.
Tyson McWilliams was fouled and made one free throw, giving the Dons one last chance.
A long inbounds throw and a quick pass led to a 3-point try at the buzzer by Thomas Notarainni that just missed.
“Give Cathedral credit,” said Saints coach Mike Haupt. “They played well, and we weren’t at our best.
“But it’s games like this that bring out the best in guys. We hung around, dug in, and got it done. We learned a lot from this.”
Agbo, a sophomore, led St. Augustine with 24 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
He battled all night against Cathedral’s 6-7 freshman Obinna Anyanwu.
“This was fun,” Agbo said. “Playing before a big crowd, in a great atmosphere, against really good players.
“We went at them, kinda learned how to play in a tough environment.”
Sophomore Luke Haupt added 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for St. Augustine despite not playing in the second quarter because of foul trouble. Alex Dennis had six points and 10 rebounds for the Saints, while Mike Haupt singled out Seth Hayes for his play.
Notarainni, a freshman, led the Dons with 24 points. Prunty, a sophomore, had 12, while freshman Alex Wade added 10.
The Saints (12-5, 5-1), ranked No. 7 in the county, have a freshman, seven sophomores, three juniors and no seniors on their 11-player roster.
The Dons (8-11, 3-3) have one senior, six juniors, a pair of sophomores and five freshmen, including starters Notarainni, Wade and the talented Anyanwu.
The Tuesday night game didn’t stop the students from showing up in force. Both sides were in full throat as they traded barbs across the court.
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