Pope John star Angel Price-Espada stood on the sideline in his bare white Nike socks prior to gametime Friday night, congratulating each teammate that came over during warmups.
As his shoes finally arrived, the junior guard laced them up and became the catalyst, pouring in a game-high 27 points in leading the Tigers to a 70-57 Catholic Central Small boys’ basketball victory over host Matignon
“I think ultimately [Price-Espada] has finally stepped up,” said Pope John coach Leo Boucher. “I don’t think we were really ready to play when we walked into the building to be quite honest with you, but I liked our effort in the third quarter and loved our effort late in the fourth.”
Price-Espada sat out nearly the entire third quarter in foul trouble, but when he checked back in with just over six minutes remaining and his team trailing 52-49, the entire game shifted. His layup with 4:10 to play tied the game at 54, and from there the Tigers (14-1) went on a 16-3 run to close it out.
It was not just Price-Espada who led the charge. Senior forward Michael Thompson had 14 points and collected 11 rebounds, and was a key factor inside the paint. Thompson’s layup with four minutes to go put Pope John in front, 56-54.
“We started to defend, we started to box the bigs, and we got inside and got the their bigs in [foul] trouble,” said Boucher.
Matignon (10-3) was going for its 10th straight victory, and early on seemed poised to get it. Senior twins Conner and Jarret Byrne were a force with their size down low. The 6-foot-5-inch Conner ended with 12 points and 10 rebounds and his brother chipped in with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Both teams ended the first quarter tied at 14, but the Warriors took command in the second quarter behind the twins and junior guard Jayson Clayton, who had a team-high 21 points. Matignon held a lead as much as 10 points in the second quarter before Price-Espada got his rhythm and led the Tigers to within 38-36 at the half.Karl Capen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.