What looked like a promising path towards a state championship came to a quick end for the St. Anthony boys’ basketball team at home on Tuesday night against Damien. The Saints were seeded No. 2 in the Division 1 bracket, and would have been at home for games on Thursday and Saturday, too, not needing to leave Jack Errion Gym until a regional final against St. John Bosco next Tuesday. But the Saints flight ended before the plane got off the runway as missed offensive opportunities doomed them in a 74-63 defeat.
“We just didn’t perform,” said frustrated Saints coach Allen Caveness. “We missed 27 layups, we had 12 unforced turnovers. We haven’t made shots in the playoffs—I give them credit, they made shots, and at the end of the day we didn’t.”
The Saints struggles peaked in the second quarter. After having won the first frame 20-13, the Saints scored just seven points (and made just two field goals) in the second period, falling behind 35-27 at the break. The Saints spent the rest of the night trying to climb back in, getting as close as four points but no closer as the Spartans were smooth at the free throw line, going 24-for-29 as a team. USC-offered Malik Thomas put up 29 points and 19 rebounds, with 18 of those points coming as part of a remarkable 18-for-18 performance at the charity stripe.
The Saints didn’t get consistent scoring from anyone until Long Beach State commit Jadon Jones stepped it up in the second half, tallying 24 points in the losing effort. Promising sophomore Elijah Price had 14 points.
Caveness’ squad had one of the most successful season in program history, winning a Del Rey League championship and earning a berth in the CIF Southern Section Open Division, but the coach wasn’t ready to reflect on the successes.
“Not right now, I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “This hurts. We thought this was a winnable game and we just didn’t perform.”