Visiting Colony High walked into Friday’s CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinal against St. Anthony with a 25-2 record, losing those pair of games by a combined eight points. It’s safe to say the Titans haven’t faced anything all season that matched up to the onslaught put on them by the Saints, who romped their way to a 75-54 win.
Inspired by a raucous crowd and an overflowing student section, St. Anthony started the game on fire, racing out to a 20-2 lead before holding a 31-11 advantage after the first quarter. The Saints led by as many as 29 early in the fourth, emphatically discarding the division’s No. 4 seed. St. Anthony head coach Alan Mitchell was thrilled for his team’s performance as the underdog.
“They deserve it, and they deserve so much more,” said Mitchell of his players. “But that coach over there, Coach Jerry (De Fabiis), you know his history. There’s nothing regular about Colony, that’s a hard group, they’re tough. Much respect to Colony, but to ‘The Pit’ and the SA community, they make this possible.”
Senior guard Lucas Gray came out firing from beyond the arc and he rarely missed. The sharpshooter poured in five threes in the first quarter alone on his way to a career-high and game-high 23 points. With every hit, the crowd grew louder and the hole grew bigger for Colony.
“It felt great, I had a great warmup and that carried through to the first quarter,” said Gray. “(The crowd) just gave me so much energy. I felt like I just had to shoot every shot when it was open. That’s what the fans did, it was really heartwarming, it felt great.”
While Gray delivered the first-round knockdown with haymakers from downtown, senior forward Elijah Price delivered the body blows all night. Price was dominant on both ends of the floor, finishing with 19 points (6/8 FGs, 7/9 FTs), 11 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and three steals.
“I am so proud of my guys,” said Price after the win. “I think we played a full 32 minutes tonight, we’ve been preaching that all season. I’m just amazed by these guys, they give it their all so I love them for that. We tell ourselves we’re not gonna lose at home, we’ve got ‘The Pit’ with us, and we just feel unstoppable.”
After falling into a 20-point hole, Colony was able to close the gap in the second quarter, but still trailed 41-25 at the break. Starting the second half, the Saints put the pedal down once again in the third, starting the quarter on a 10-2 run and outscoring the Titans 21-10 in the frame. The first and third quarters showed St. Anthony at their best, and it was too much for Colony to overcome.
“In those two quarters, you saw our keys to win and our execution,” Mitchell said. “These are teenage kids and I keep trying to tell them if they execute, they’ll give themselves a chance to win. Our foundation, our unity, it’s just amazing, I love it. Praise to God for that.”
Senior point guard Jaayden Bush had an efficient night without needing to carry the scoring load. He finished with 11 points (5/6 FGs), four rebounds and four assists. Jayden Walker added 12 to put four Saints in double-figures.
The Titans were led by 19 points from junior Jaidyn Simpson and got 12 from Minnesota commit Jaden Henley. The senior Henley dealt with foul trouble in the first half, and shot 5/12 from the floor with six rebounds on the night.
The emphatic win for St. Anthony sets up a compelling semifinal matchup next Tuesday night. The Saints will be right back at home, facing a very familiar opponent. For the third time this season, St. Anthony will match up against Del Rey League rivals St. Bernard with a trip to the CIF title game on the line.
St. Bernard went 2-0 against St. Anthony during league play, winning a couple of nail-biters by scores of 50-48 and 52-48. After Friday’s win, the Saints were already excited about getting a third shot against the Vikings on the way to achieving their ultimate goals for the season.
“From the beginning, we’ve been saying CIF championship, State championship,” said Price. “This game coming up with Bernard, it definitely means a lot more since they beat us twice in the regular season. This game is a revenge game; we want to send them home for sure.”