The562’s coverage of Saints athletics is sponsored in part by St. Anthony High School.
When St. Anthony took on St. Paul earlier in this Del Rey League season, the Saints needed double overtime to finally dispatch the Swordsmen. But on Friday night, with the strength of a raucous Saints student section behind the west baseline, St. Anthony took care of business in regulation with a 63-53 victory.
Senior guard Tyler Small was key in the victory, scoring seven points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 20 points. Juniors Quincy Phillips and Amaan Zavahir each had 14 for the Saints.
“First and foremost man, glory to God,” said St. Anthony head coach Alan Mitchell after the win. “A bunch of new kids getting this support that we just got here on Darrick Martin Court, Errion Gym, it’s so amazing. I’m just thankful, man. The boys, they’re fighting, and we’re figuring it out at the right time.”
It took the Saints a few minutes to get St. Paul figured out on Friday as the visitors raced out to a quick 9-0 lead. But that’s when Small started to heat up, with Phillips dropping in a pair of first-quarter three’s to cut the deficit to just 15-13 after eight minutes.
“Tyler’s important for us. Everybody knows it, it's not a secret, and that's perfectly fine,” said Mitchell of his senior guard, who transferred in from Servite. “Tyler’s accepted a new role, a new atmosphere, a new culture, and one thing Tyler is is steady.”
A three-point play by Phillips gave the Saints their first lead, 19-17, early in the second quarter and the hosts would never look back. The Saints were able to pull ahead for a 30-26 halftime lead, and would remain in front until the final horn.
When St. Paul scored the first points of the fourth quarter to pull within four, 45-41, that’s when Small took things over. First, an old-fashioned three-point play. The next time down the floor, a three from the right wing. On the third trip, three more points from the opposite side of the floor to put St. Anthony up by nine and force a St. Paul timeout.
Small scored or assisted on all of St. Anthony’s buckets in the fourth quarter as the home team went up by as many as 11 before preserving their 10-point victory.
“We started a little bit slow, 9-0, but we had to come back. That's what we’ve got to do and that's what we've been doing during league,” said Small, who acknowledged how much the crowd support factored into his team’s performance. “It's my first year experiencing (the crowd) and I love it. I love the support, I love everybody around me, family members around me, everybody cheering. It's a whoooole different experience and I love it. I really appreciate everybody.”
Adding to the festivities on Friday night were a pair of special ceremonies for Saints Athletics. Before the game, St. Anthony legend Darrick Martin was honored with a special jersey presentation, and his No. 15 St. Anthony jersey will soon be displayed at Errion Gym alongside one of his NBA jerseys. Then at halftime, the Saints faithful applauded their CIF State champion softball team from a season ago.
On the court for the visitors, Tong Mawein had a team-high 17 points for the Swordsmen while Maurice Wright added a dozen.
The win keeps St. Anthony (12-11, 3-2) on track to earn a playoff spot, but some key games remain. The Saints will head to Ontatio on Saturday to face Long Beach Poly in a non-league showdown, then have league games vs. Serra (Jan. 25), at first-place Bishop Montgomery (Jan. 27) then at home against St. Bernard (Feb. 1) in the regular season finale.