The562’s coverage of Saints athletics is sponsored in part by St. Anthony High School.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
It all came together for St. Anthony boys’ basketball on Friday night at Wilson as a huge second half lifted the Saints to an 80-59 victory over the Bruins. The win snaps a five-game losing streak for St. Anthony.
“Hopefully this can be our spark,” St. Anthony coach Alan Mitchell said. “It was just trusting what we’ve been doing in the gym at practice. We’ve got a very young group that’s kind of hesitant to trust its own work. When they trust it, that’s what it looks like.”
St. Anthony (3-5) only led by five points at halftime, but used a pair of big runs to maintain a double digit lead for most of the second half. Senior Tyler Small led the Saints with 21 points after making a trio of 3-pointers while the St. Anthony bench (and visiting fan section behind the bench) exploded with relief and celebration.
“We’ve been waiting all season for that,” Small said. “Everybody was hyped up and that’s how it should be every game. This is our culture.”
Small is a transfer from Servite who is embracing a new role at St. Anthony.
“He’s stepping out of his comfort zone and into a role we need in our locker room and on campus,” Mitchell said. “Tonight was the first night where he really accepted that.”
“With this young team I definitely have to be a leader, and that means being vocal,” Small said.
Junior Quiincy Phillips chipped in 17 points for St. Anthony, and sophomore Darius Williams scored 10 points.
This local rivalry for schools both located on 7th Street started with high-pressure defense from both sides, and that created a bevy of turnovers in the first half. That played into Wilson’s hands as senior guard Sean Oliver led the home team with 19 points.
Oliver put the Bruins up 16-14 early in the second quarter, but Aaron Montez and Donovan Pitts responded with quick buckets that gave the Saints the lead for good.
While the Wilson offense bogged down in the second half, St. Anthony found ways to get through the Bruins pressure and get a string of easy points in the paint. The Saints led 54-41 at the end of the third quarter. St. Anthony closed the game out with five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“It was just bad team offense,” Wilson coach James Boykin said of his team's poor finish. “It turned into a lot of one-on-one stuff with guys trying to play hero ball. And then the game just slowly got away from us. I told (the team) to remember the feeling. This is a big game for the City of Long Beach… When you don’t play the right way this is what will happen.”
Wilson (4-2) visits Huntington Beach on Monday before St. Anthony hosts Loyola on Wednesday.