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Crusaders rise to the top, AOL captures city title with 36-34 victory over St. Christopher

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / March 12, 1998

LAPLACE – There is an old saying that both the easiest and hardest thingto do in life is quit.

When Ascension of Our Lord fell behind St. Christopher 11-1 early in thefinals of the Catholic League City Championships at St. Joan of Arc Friday,it would have been easy for the Crusaders to rest on the laurels of a verysuccessful season.

But an one-loss regular season and a River Parishes Catholic Leaguetournament championship were not the primary goals for the Crusaders.

Their eyes were set on a championship, a journey that was completed asJason Waguespack’s driving layup with 1.4 seconds left gave the Crusadersa 38-36 victory over the Thoroughbreds.

St. Christopher had just rallied from a five-point deficit to tie the scorewith nine seconds left on a jump shot from the right baseline by BrandonNicalosi.

Waguespack took the inbounds pass, drove down the right sideline, cutinside and put up a fingerroll that banked off the backboard through thenet. St. Christopher’s inbounded the ball and threw up a desperation thatfell well short as the buzzer sounded.

The city championship was the first ever for a River Parishes team andcapped off a season that saw the Crusaders lose only one game, a one-point loss to River Parishes Catholic League champion Riverside.

“It was a great year all year long,” Ascension of Our Lord coach AndreGuardian said. “We lost one game by one point to Riverside and I believethat is what we spurred us on. We didn’t want to lose anymore.

“This is what the team has been waiting for. They never lost sight of thegoal and kept their eye on first place.”

Ascension trailed 18-16 at the break but rallied to take its first lead ofthe game on a layup by Shanon Graver with 3:20 left in the third quarter.

St. Christopher bounced back to take a 23-20 lead on a put back by KennyMiller and a jump shot by David Rittiner. Ascension answered with a freethrow by Graver and a layup by Waguespack to tie the score heading intothe final quarter.

The Thoroughbreds took their final lead with five minutes left on a jumpshot by Joseph Ory. Ascension followed with an 8-0 run to take a 31-25lead with 2:29 remaining. Kevin Blank opened the run by grabbing a reboundand finding Graver downcourt for a layup. Chance Blank followed bygrabbing a steal at midcourt and taking it in to give the Crusaders a 27-25lead.

After an exchange of rebounds, Chance Blank knocked down a jump shotfrom the free throw line. Graver followed with a put back, giving theCrusaders the six-point lead and forcing the Thoroughbreds to use atimeout.

St. Christopher then began a rally on its own, cutting the deficit to threewith a 3-point play by Miller. Ascension answered with a put back byGraver, taking a 33-28 lead with 1:43 left. But a jump shot by Rittiner anda put back by Miller brought the Thoroughbreds to within 34-32 with 23.6seconds left.

St. Christopher looked to pull away from the Crusaders as the contestopened. Miller scored seven points in the opening minutes, including athree-point play, to give the Thoroughbreds a 10-point cushion. Graverscored the Crusaders’ first field goal of the game with a put back with 50seconds left and Derrick Gaubert followed with a jump shot to bringAscension to within 11-5 at the end of the first quarter.St. Christopher opened the second quarter with a jump shot by Nicalosi,but the Crusaders answered with a turnaround jumper and three-point playby Kevin Blank to pull to within 13-10. After a free throw by Miller,Chance Blank and Waguespack buried jumpers to bring the Crusaders evenwith 2:13 remaining in the half.

St. Christopher surged back ahead on jumpers by Rittiner and Ory beforeTimmy Treas answered with a free throw to pull the Crusaders to withintwo at halftime.

Graver led the Crusaders with 11 points. Waguespack tossed in ninepoints, while Chance and Kevin Blank contributed seven and six points,respectively.

Miller led all scorers with 16 points. Rittiner and Ory added six pointsapiece for the Thoroughbreds.

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