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'Resilient' St. Bernard beats rival St. Anthony to advance to Division 1 Southern Section championship

St. Bernard will travel to play JSerra in the Division 1 Southern Section title game on Friday.

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Trailing 20-14 after one quarter may have been a blessing in disguise for St. Bernard.

The Vikings came out with a "different energy" in the second quarter of their Division 1 Southern Section semifinal showdown against Del Rey League rival St. Anthony, according to senior guard Jason Hart Jr., and it changed the game.

“We were down early and that motivated us," he said.

Hart certainly played like he had a point to prove. After going scoreless in the first eight minutes, the Long Beach State signee sparked the Vikings to a 34-28 halftime lead with ten second quarter points. He went on to clinch a championship berth for St. Bernard making two free throws with 7.9 seconds to go to put his team up 66-61.

St. Anthony senior Jaayden Bush then banked in a desperation 3 with .7 seconds left, but it was too little too late and St. Bernard hung on to win 66-64.

“This feels great for the program," St. Bernard head coach Tony Bland said postgame. "Our guys work hard. We have a wonderful school. We’re just happy we can keep playing and show everybody what we have over here.”

St. Bernard never trailed in the second half on Tuesday night. The Vikings even opened up a nine point lead with 6:11 to go, 52-43. With 3:58 to play, Hart made a contested lay up to give the Vikings a 56-48 lead. He finished with a team high 18 points.

Even though the game tightened late in the fourth quarter, Bland was impressed with how his team fought back from their slow start.

"Tonight was about the resiliency of my players," he said. "They knew there were going to be some runs. Their players had some good shots late in the shot clock. But our guys kept fighting.”

Bush scored 15 fourth quarter points and finished with a game high 25 in total. He almost single-handedly closed the gap for St. Anthony in the fourth quarter. Saints senior Elijah Price scored 18 points in the first half and finished with 22. A third scoring threat never emerged for St. Anthony as no one else finished in double figures for the Saints. Senior Darius Carr scored 12 points for St. Bernard and senior Tyler Rolison added 11. Seven different players scored for St. Bernard compared to only five for St. Anthony.

St. Bernard will travel to play JSerra in the Division 1 title game on Friday.

"Let's go on and win that thing," Hart said.


Although St. Anthony won't play for a Southern Section championship, the Saints will play in next week's state playoffs after reaching the Division 1 semifinals. St. Anthony and St. Bernard could end up playing for a fourth time this season after meeting twice in Del Rey League play and then in the Southern Section playoffs. So far, St. Bernard has won all three meetings.