DEL MAR — Brandon Michel strolled to the charity stripe with six seconds remaining on the clock, brimming with confidence.
“I was kind of feeling it tonight,” Michel said.
After all, the senior guard poured in 10 fourth quarter points, building a late three-point cushion for Cathedral Catholic. One free throw would seal the game.
The basketball, however, clanked off the rim. St. Augustine drove up the court and heaved a desperation shot at the buzzer.
“Please don’t make this three. My goodness,” Michel mumbled to himself.
Cathedral Catholic (13-2) squeaked out the Claver Center, defeating St. Augustine 67-64 Saturday night in front of a packed house. It was the Dons’ second victory of the season over the Saints, who loss 65-53 earlier in the season.
“We got it done,” said Xavier Williams, who scored 11 points. “In the end, we hit most of our free throws to secure the lead and got it done.”
Michel finished with 24 points on 6-of-7 shooting from three-point range to guide the No. 2 CIF San Diego Section Dons to a victory in Western League play.
“They’re tough,” said Cathedral Catholic coach Will Cunningham.
“They made us do some things that we weren’t necessarily accustomed to doing, but we have guys that can make plays and got just enough stops at the end to pull it out.”
Brent Jones tallied 18 points for the Saints (8-3), who were coming off a second place finish in the Under Armour Torrey Pines Holiday Classic National Tournament last week. Senior guard Brynton Lemar chipped in 17 points.
“We knew we would have to have a strong second half and tighten up our defense against them if we were going to win,” Michel said.
In the first half, St. Augustine led by as many as nine points behind the streaky Jones, who caught fire behind the arc. They controlled the tempo and forced plenty of tough looks for the Dons, who converted just 4-of-16 three pointers.
However, an 18-11 Cathedral run cut the deficit to two points at intermission. Both teams traded bucket for bucket down the stretch until Michel’s three pointer extended Cathedral’s lead to five points with just under two minutes to play.
“(Michel) just plays tremendous basketball against St. Augustine,” Williams said. “He had two twenty-point games against them last year. He just balls when he plays them. Any of us can play like that on any given night, but tonight, it was him. He played a heck of a game.”
According to Cunningham, a second victory over their rivals in conference play will serve as a springboard for the rest of the season.
“Our first goal is to try to compete for league,” Cunningham said. “There are tough teams throughout such as the Saints, Lincoln and Mission Bay. This is one step in the big picture.”