TAMPA — A sellout crowd was on hand Friday night at Jesuit, and the home Tigers didn’t disappoint, cruising by Tampa Catholic 72-61.
The Tigers (13-1), fresh off their strong showing at the Father George Classic in Maryland, were lead by strong performances from Jack Fleming (21 points) and Devin Harris (17).
After a tight first quarter, the Jesuit defense began to impose its will on the Crusaders. The Tigers used their length on the defensive end to fuel a pair of big runs in the second quarter. During that stretch the Tigers had four blocked shots and forced six turnovers.
Many of those led to easy transition baskets, including a highlight dunk by Harris on a fast break.
Tampa Catholic came into the game having scored 185 points in their past two games and 80 points each in seven of 14 games.
“We knew we had to play good transition defense against Tampa Catholic because they like to run,” Harris said. “But we can run, too; we just like to run off of our defense and that’s what we were able to do tonight.”
Leading 35-21 at halftime, the Tigers hot shooting continued, stretching the lead to as many as 18 early in the third quarter.
But Tampa Catholic didn’t go down without a fight. The Crusaders responded with an 11-0 run to cut the lead to seven. But that’s as close as they got the rest of the game.
A big 3-pointer near the end of the third pushed the Jesuit lead back up to 10. The Crusaders fought valiantly during the fourth quarter, but the aggressiveness they had to play with to get back in the game ultimately worked to their disadvantage.
Jesuit scored 26 points in the last frame, many on easy lay-ups and free throws.
“Tampa Catholic is a good team, so we wanted to come out, let our defense set the tone and play a complete game.” Jesuit coach Neal Goldman said. “They made a run there in the third quarter but I liked our composure.”