TAMPA — The eyes of Jesuit captains Mike Matesich and Austin Schonbrun, among four Tigers seniors facing Tampa Catholic for the final time, betrayed a steely tenacity Friday.
Perhaps more importantly, those same sets of eyes never blinked when adversity struck.
Down by nine in the third quarter, the pair helped Jesuit (14-8) rally for a 60-52 triumph before a crowd of 1,253 in the Tiger palace. Matesich scored all 10 of his points after halftime; Schonbrun had six of his team-high 18 down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
"The most important thing is just the heart," Schonbrun said. "That's what we had over TC, we had the heart. We had the Blue Tide (Jesuit's raucous student section) on our side, we had God on our side, it's just an amazing feeling right now."
TC (19-6) was playing without rangy senior David Gonzalez (twisted ankle), who had 14 in the teams' first meeting — a 17-point TC win — three weeks ago. Without him, the Crusaders leaned heavily on guards Austin Aikens (21 points) and Lashawn Harrison (15).
The pair teamed for five of TC's points during an 8-0 run, which included Tyree Holder's 3, that gave the guests a 34-25 lead in the third. But Jesuit answered with a 9-0 run to tie, using its halfcourt trap to score five points off three turnovers.
"We had a few steals," Tigers coach Neal Goldman said. "That seemed to energize everybody."
Matesich's baseline jumper in the fourth gave Jesuit a 42-40 lead it wouldn't relinquish. Tim Ganther, another senior, added two free throws, then Matesich scored inside on a feed from Calvin Ruff, the other senior, to give the hosts a 46-40 advantage.
From there, Schonbrun scored on a jumper and transition layup, and freshman Travis Johnson (12 points) added a basket to give Jesuit a 52-45 lead with 2:27 to play. The Tigers then sank 6 of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal it.