The St. Anthony boys’ basketball team has been saying all week that a potential matchup with Long Beach Poly would be just another game for them. As it turned out, they were right: it was another game, and another win for a Saints team that has now started the season 11-0 and earned a spot in Open Division conversation. The Saints faced the Jackrabbits on Friday night in a battle of Long Beach’s top two programs, and came out victorious in the semifinals of the Bosco Winter Classic, winning easily, 99-64.
“We don’t win a trophy, we don’t get any rings, it was just another game,” said St. Anthony coach Allen Caveness. “Tomorrow we play St. John Bosco to try to win a trophy in their gym, that will be an even bigger challenge for us.”
There was no doubt, however, from the packed crowd featuring alums of both schools, to the high emotion on the court, that this was not actually just another game. St. Anthony senior Jadon Jones put up 38 points on 12/16 shooting in the win, and did some barking back and forth with some of the Poly fans.
“I was just telling them respect me, respect my game,” he said.
Jones comes from a lineage of Long Beach hoopers—his dad, Derek Jones, is a well-known Long Beach product as well. He’s aware of the significance of beating a historic power like Poly.
“It means a lot to win, to get a win like this,” he said. “It shows that we deserve more respect than what we’ve gotten.”
That doesn’t mean he was surprised—by the result or the wide margin.
“I was 100% sure this would happen,” he said. “We prepared for this, we expected this. I just went out and played my game like I do every night.”
The Saints led 19-15 after the first quarter, as they successfully swarmed Poly star Peyton Watson, forcing the ball out of his hands with double and even triple teams. The Jackrabbits role players had the burden of scoring with a high octane Saints team, and weren’t up to the challenge. Watson came alive in the second quarter and ended up finishing with 19 points, despite taking just seven shots.
“We know how good he is, you can’t guard him with one person,” said Caveness. “We double and triple teamed him and he still gets 20. That tells you how good he is.”
The Saints pulled away in the second half to take a 43-33 lead, and then Jones took the came over and blew it open in the third quarter, pouring in 18 points to bring his total to 38. Jones did it by driving to the rim, by knocking down mid-range shots, and by going 6/8 from three-point range, showing his diverse skill set.
“He’s just really underrated,” said Caveness. “ He’s not a big social media guy, he doesn’t go out and just hunt his shot—he’s second on our team in assists. He’s a leader and a great kid.”
St. Anthony won the third quarter 29-17 and then steamrolled their way through the fourth, finishing just one point shy of 100 to the dismay of their fans.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t want us to hit 100,” said Jones. “I missed two free throws so I’ll take that blame.”
In addition to Jones’ huge night, the Saints were led by Gorden Boykins’ 19 points and 11 from Lorenzo Marsh. Poly was led by Watson’s 19, as well as 12 points from Solomon Jones.
St. Anthony (11-0) will face Bosco at 3 p.m. for the tournament championship while Poly (4-3) will face Loyola in the third-place game at 1:30 p.m.