Like many of its MIAA C Conference basketball road matches, Saints Peter & Paul High had to travel far – 70 miles to be exact – for its contest with Cristo Rey Jesuit Friday evening. The Sabres showed that the road to the championship will have to again go through Easton.

Saints Peter & Paul defeated the Hornets, 74-72, in the regular season finale in Baltimore City. Junior guard Naail Thompson had 20 points, four assists and five steals and Tyrese Purnell finished with 20 points for the Sabres (13-9 overall, 10-2 MIAA B). 

The defending league champs from the Eastern Shore rallied from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit to secure the top-seed for next week’s playoffs. Saints Peter & Paul will host Beth Tfiloh in a semifinal Thursday.

“We’ve been resilient all year,” said Sabres coach Jeff Hollis. “We never give up on a drill in practice, and it showed tonight.”

“It was really crazy in here and we had to keep our composure. We had to come together,” said Thompson. “At one point, We were going one-on-one and they were getting steals and running transition.”

The Hornets led 64-57 with 5 minutes, 12 seconds left in regulation after a 3-pointer from Tim Peterson, but a 15-0 run, featuring two dunks from Purnell surged the visitors in front and silenced the Cristo Rey faithful. Thompson capped the run with a 3-pointer before the 30-second shot clock expired.

“Execution is key and we had to step up as a team,” said Purnell, 6-foot-4. “We started getting that momentum and my dunk gave us more momentum.”

The Sabres led 40-32 at halftime, but Cristo Rey answered in third. The Chester Street school went on a 23-8 run to gain a 55-48 advantage. 

After Saints Peter & Paul closed to 59-57 early in the fourth on a 3-pointer fron Connor Mullally, Peterson answered for Cristo Rey with a basket and 3-pointer for a seven-point lead. The Hornets didn’t score again until Mikiah Bailey’s basket with 46.2 seconds left.

Cristo Rey coach Eddie Healy said his team was unable to put together a complete second half.”

“We’ve been a second half team and went back to our pressure. Once we get one or two steals, momentum builds and we were rocking,” said Hornets coach Eddie Healy. “We just couldn’t keep that pace for 16 minutes and fell apart. We gave up 24 points in the fourth.”

Peterson finished a game-high 26 points for Cristo Rey, and Bailey added 23. Jekai Jones had 13. 

After winning six games last season, Cristo Rey has the No. 2 seed in the C playoffs. The Hornets will play Key School in a semifinal Thursday at Gilman’s Finney Center. 

The Sabres will try to become third team (Indian Creek School and Chapelgate Christian Academy) to win back-to-back C titles. They will first have to beat Beth Tfiloh which swept them during the regular season.

“We have a tough time, but we’ll figure out something,” said Hollis.

“We got to play physical and execute like tonight, and we should be good,” said Purnell.

Saints Peter & Paul 74, Cristo Rey Jesuit 72

Saints Peter & Paul – Purnell 20, Mullaney 13, Mangold 9, Leister 4, Powell 8, Thompson 20. Totals 29 12-14 74.

Cristo Rey – Curry 4, J. Jones 13, Peterson 26, A. Jones 4, Bailey 23, Yancey 2. Totals 30 10-15

Saints Peter & Paul 21 19 10 24 – 74

Cristo Rey  15 17 23 17 – 72