Cathedral boys battling St Al, Providence for district’s third and fourth place

Published 1:00 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

By Ernest Bowker

The Vicksburg Post

VICKSBURG — The powers that be in MAIS District 4-5A elected not to play a postseason basketball tournament this year. The boys’ teams, however, have gone ahead and set up their own by default.

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St. Aloysius, Cathedral and Providence Classical are fighting for third and fourth place and the district’s last two spots in the Class 5A South State tournament, and the schedule is set up for them to play each other in the final week of the regular season.

St. Al took a big step toward earning its place in the first of those meetings Thursday, as it roared back from an early 10-point deficit to beat Cathedral 55-49.

The Flashes (13-10, 2-4 District 4-5A) host Providence Classical Friday at 7:15 p.m., and go to Natchez to play Cathedral on Tuesday. They finish the regular season with another district game at Copiah Academy on Feb. 1.

Cathedral (13-15, 1-5) is at Providence Classical on Feb. 2, in addition to next week’s home game against St. Al.

“Tonight was huge, and I told them if you win then tomorrow night is just as huge,” St. Al coach Walter Hallberg said. “We need to finish 4-4 to make sure we’re in the playoffs so tomorrow is just as big a game as tonight was. We had a great crowd tonight, the student section was full, and I hope everybody comes back tomorrow night.”

Korey Sims had a double-double for St. Al, with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Carson Gleese and Anthony McCloud also scored 16 points apiece, while Carson Henderson finished with four points, seven rebounds and four steals.

It was a balanced effort that the Flashes needed to overcome an early rush by Cathedral. The Green Wave made four 3-pointers in the first quarter to race to a 12-2 lead four minutes into the game. Cam Tanner made three of the 3-pointers and finished with 15 points.

A defensive switch from zone to man-to-man cut that off. St. Al took its first lead midway through the second quarter and did not trail in the second half after taking a 32-28 lead into the break.

“I don’t know what it is about playing us. We watch people on film and they make two or three 3s in a game and then they play us and can’t miss,” Hallberg said with a laugh. “They came out and hit a bunch of 3s off the bat and put us on our heels. Once we switched to that man we closed them out better, stopped their driving, and didn’t give up many more 3s. Defense won this game.”

Gleese made a basket and then hit a 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 run and give St. Al its biggest lead of the game, 49-38, with 3:50 left in the fourth quarter. Cathedral never went away, though. It made several small runs that were countered each time by the Flashes, and eventually the Green Wave ran out of time to mount its own comeback.

Justin Hawkins led Cathedral with 17 points and Gibson Hillyer had 10, in addition to Tanner’s 15.

“We came out hot. We knew what they were going to run defensively. They switched it up into man and we got a little stagnant,” Cathedral coach Jonathan Albright said. “Playing three sophomores and a freshman, there’s not a lot of experience out there right now. We still found a way in the second half to hit some shots.”

Hallberg was proud of his team for pulling out a tough victory. The Flashes have often struggled in close games this season, and had dropped their last two district games.

“Those are the games we’re learning how to win. We lost those close games at the start of the year and now we’re starting to win those close games,” Hallberg said. “It’s a testament to how hard the kids are working. They have worked hard all year, each and every week, to get better and we’re getting there.”