In preparation for this week’s Saint Anselm’s Abbey School Invitational, Avalon senior captains Emmet Sloan and Tracy Johnson shaved their hair into Mohawks, motivation for the season-ending tournament. The rest of the team quickly followed suit.
The Knights, who are not affiliated with a conference, capped their season with a tournament championship Saturday evening, besting tournament host Saint Anselm’s, 47-46. Avalon (19-10) led nearly the entire way and survived a fourth-quarter Panthers rally in which Saint Anselm’s (19-11) could not quite pull even.
“This is how we judge our season a little bit, how we top if all off. It was great to get this win. It means a lot to us,” Sloan said.
“I think the mohawks might have had something to do with it. Maybe because we looked a little foolish it was a little bit more motivation to play better,” he joked later.
Avalon led by seven entering the fourth and grew that lead to 10 when Johnson drained a three to open the quarter. From there, Saint Anselm’s went on a 12-3 run to shrink the Knights’ lead to one with less than four minutes to play. The Panthers never finished their comeback, while Avalon cemented their championship with key rebounds, a crucial steal by Rachid Ibrahim on one of the Panthers’ last possessions and just enough free throw shooting to seal it.
The Knights built their lead with defense in the first quarter, outscoring Saint Anselm’s 12-5 in the opening period. Avalon allowed the Panthers to hit just one field goal in the first quarter while junior Zamir Courtney got out to a hot start with seven first-quarter points.
Sloan, Avalon’s leading scorer, didn’t score in the first quarter. The senior found his shot as the game went on though and helped finish the game from the free throw line, hitting two of his four foul shots down the stretch to keep Saint Anselm’s at arm’s length.
Saint Anselm’s center T.J. Duckett was the game’s leading scorer, backing his 6-foot-5 frame into Knights defenders en route to 15 points. Sloan finished with a team-high 14 points for Avalon, followed by Johnson, who had 11.
“Nobody plays harder than [Sloan]. He’s a classic kind of gym rat. He’s got an old-school toughness,” first-year Avalon Coach Kevin Davern said. “Sometimes your shot’s on and sometimes your shot’s off, but you know he’s going to play hard every second he’s out there, and it paid off for him with hustle points.”