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Tampa Catholic finishes strong to beat rival Jesuit

After a timeout, the Crusader boys close out the game by going on a 16-0 run.

TAMPA — Nothing was going right for Tampa Catholic. Long-range shots were clanking off the rim. Passes were either tipped or taken away. And an early lead evaporated.

Trailing 41-36 about a minute into the fourth quarter Friday night, Crusaders coach Don Dziagwa had seen enough. So he called timeout.

There was no screaming. No stomping of the feet. Dziagwa simply told his team they needed to come up with three stops.

Tampa Catholic did more than that. After that timeout with 6:47 remaining, layups made their way into the basket, shots were altered on defense. As a result, the Crusaders regained momentum.

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Outscoring Jesuit 16-0 in the final six minutes, Tampa Catholic seized control to win 52-41. It was the Crusaders’ seventh straight victory in the series, a streak that started in 2016.

“They’re never easy,” Dziagwa said of the Tigers. “At some point in the game, you have to have a series of stops. And we were able to get a bunch when it mattered.”

Tampa Catholic's Alijah Harrison tries to block a shot by Jesuit's Bennett Andersen. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Part of the reason for Tampa Catholic’s struggles through the first three quarters had to do with the play of Jesuit’s tenacious defense. The Tigers (10-5) played zone, forcing the Crusaders (11-5) to take plenty of outside shots that did not fall.

The pace of the game also did not suit Tampa Catholic. Because of their height and athleticism, the Crusaders are built to go on fast breaks as they pile on the points. Entering Friday’s game, Tampa Catholic was 4-0 when scoring 80 or more points and 7-1 when scoring 70 or more.

But the Crusaders were just 3-4 when held to 70 or fewer.

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“I was a little worried about that the way the game was going,” Dziagwa said. “We were just a little off when we shot from the outside, but we started to get things going once we drove inside. And the defense really played well.”

Johni Broome, a Morehead State signee, finished with 21 points, 21 rebounds and six blocked shots to lead Tampa Catholic with his inside presence. Teammates Alijah Harrison (nine points) and Kobe Knox (eight points) also contributed on offense.

Sophomore Jasiah Taylor had 10 points and was the only Jesuit player who reached double figures in scoring.