By Phil Anastasia
St. Augustine Prep is a basketball team with a bright future, which doesn't mean a whole lot to the seniors on the roster.
They are focused on today, not tomorrow.
"We're counting down the days, even in practice," St. Augustine senior Nate Segal said after helping the host Hermits to a 48-43 victory over Camden Catholic on Friday night in the second round of the Non-Public A South tournament.
Segal scored 13 and sophomore Mike Vasturia generated a game-high 15 points points for second-seeded St. Augustine (23-4), which will host the Paul VI-Christian Brothers Academy winner in Monday's semifinals.
Senior guard Tom Organ scored 14 and junior forward Courtney Cubbage added 12 points with 10 rebounds for seventh-seeded Camden Catholic (21-7) in a game played before a near-capacity crowd in Paul Rodio Gymnasium.
The loss was a heart-breaker for Irish seniors such as Organ, point guard Rob Brosh and swingman Jake Johnson.
"I plan on coaching at Camden Catholic for a long time," said coach Matt Crawford, who finished his first season in place of his father, long-time Irish coach Jim Crawford. "I'll never forget these guys, my first team. I love these kids. They had a special bond.
"All year, this team was close. There was no nonsense. I know they are confused and frustrated right now but when they wake up they are going to realize they gave it all they had and that's all you can ask."
St. Augustine advanced to the next round with a team that features younger players such as Vasturia, sophomore guard Sa'eed Nelson (nine points, four assists) and freshman forward Justyn Mutts (nine points, three rebounds, three blocks).
"They're young and I don't know if they don't know any better or they are growing up right in front of my eyes," said St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio, after whom the gym is named. "But they hang in there and they fight and they make the plays the need to make."
Despite the team's overall youth, St. Augustine also has key seniors such as Segal, swingman Brian Seward and guard Kevin Kennedy.
Segal, a 6-foot-1 swingman, scored eight in the first quarter as the Hermits jumped in front 10-2 before the Irish worked their way back into the game.
St. Augustine broke the game open in the third quarter, turning a 20-19 edge into a 34-25 advantage.
Segal and Vasturia both hit three-pointers in the key sequence and the Hermits were able to disrupt the Irish at the other end with pressure defense.
"Coach always says the first four minutes of the first quarter and the first four minutes of the third quarter are key points of the game," Segal said. "We wanted to up the tempo and make them play our game a little."
St. Augustine's surge forced Camden Catholic out of its 2-3 zone and into a man-to-man defense. That allowed the creative Nelson some room to operate, and the slick, 5-foot-8 athlete scored seven of his nine in the fourth.
"We were able to get a little space and they had to chase us a little bit," Rodio said. "We were able to get them out of their comfort zone a little bit.
"But they (Camden Catholic) are such a good basketball team. It was a typical St. Augustine-Camden Catholic game."
With Nelson slashing to the basket, Vasturia stepping back for three-pointers and Mutts showing his potential in the paint, St. Augustine offered a glimpse of its future.
But it's the present that matters to the seniors.
"It's win or go home and we don't want to go home," Segal said. "You're going to remember these days for the rest of your life. You have to keep working hard in practice and in games and try to keep it going as long as we can.
"I'm excited because now we have practice tomorrow."
Camden Catholic 13 6 6 18 -- 43
St. Augustine 14 6 14 14 - 48
CC: Rob Brosh 4, Tom Organ 14, Courtney Cubbage 12, Jake Johnson 3, Brendan Crawford 10.
SA: Sa'eed Nelson 9, Brian Seward 2, Nate Segal 13, Mike Vasturia 15, Justyn Mutts 9.
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