Coach Daryl Jarvis and the C.A. Johnson boys basketball squad made history on Saturday, defeating St. Joseph’s 57-54 in the Class A Upper State final at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Despite the excitement of reaching the program’s first state championship game, the Hornets remained settled, even as a traveling call gave St. Joseph’s possession and a chance at tying the score with 1.5 seconds to go.
“I felt like God didn’t bring us this far for us to lose here,” said senior Mike Knox, who posted nine points and 10 rebounds.
The Hornets broke out in celebration as Alexander Powell’s 3-point attempt arced high and off center.
“It’s been a long time coming for this school, and I’m so proud of these guys,” Jarvis said.
“We had to play physical, and we had to play fundamentally sound. If we got emotional, they would have taken it from us.”
C.A. Johnson – led by Peter Goodman’s 24 points – put pressure on St. Joseph’s early and led through much of the game.
In the third quarter, C.A. Johnson stretched its four-point halftime lead to nine points.
The Hornets were leading 42-33 when Nelson came up with a steal at midcourt and fell to the floor. William Tobe was called for a technical foul after the play and, in the midst of discussing that call with referees, Jarvis also was assessed a technical foul.
With Powell at the line, the Knights cut their deficit to six points.
“That put a little fire under our guys and let them know this game was not over, because I think we got a nine-point lead and kind of tried to relax a little bit,” Jarvis said.
Even as their lead dwindled to 42-40 at the end of the period, the Hornets remained confident.
“That last quarter, we wanted to keep doing what we’re doing. We had them scrambling, we got a couple of easy baskets and it came out in our favor,” Jarvis said.
Goodman’s play was especially crucial there.
At the start of the fourth quarter, with the Hornets up 42-40, Goodman swished a 3 to reopen the lead.
Two of Goodman’s four 3-pointers had helped C.A. Johnson off to a strong start. With rebounding on both ends of the court from William Tobe and Knox, the Hornets worked their way to a 16-8 lead after six minutes. St. Joseph’s Landy Assinesi’s bank shot at the buzzer cut the Hornets’ lead to 16-14 to end the first period.
With consecutive 3s, St. Joseph’s took the lead early in the second quarter, 20-18, but the Knights could not pull away.
A Goodman putback bucket evened the score and, despite missing four free throws in three trips to the line in the next two minutes, the Hornets moved back out front.
A 3-pointer from Nate Nelson put the Hornets up 27-20 with two minutes left in the half.
St. Joseph’s center Gene Langan led the Knights with 21 points, with 15 in the second half.
CAJ: Nate Nelson 10, Peter Goodman 24, Knox 9, Riley 3, Corley 4, Johnson 5, Tobe 2. SJ: Galemmo 5, Assinesi 7, Alexander Powell 13, Gene Langan 21, Dunphy 2, C. Powell 6.