The Mustangs maintained a small lead for most of the fourth quarter by drawing fouls, creating turnovers and attacking the basket. They stretched it to five with less than 2 minutes left on back-to-back layups by Alex Thomas and Nigel Hayes.
But Kennesaw Mountain couldn’t quite hold on to the lead.
Blessed Trinity quickly snuck its way back in it, and a 3-pointer by Michael Garrett with a minute remaining lifted the Titans to a 53-49 victory in the Southeast Basketball Academy Atlanta High School Hoop Festival at Pope.
What may sting most about the loss was Hayes’ missed shot prior to Garrett’s go-ahead 3. With the Mustangs (2-7) ahead 49-48, Hayes had an open lane to finish a layup, but the ball circled the back of the rim and rolled out.
“That one that Nigel had that fell out, had it gone in, we might had won the game,” Kennesaw Mountain coach Jesse Bonner said. “(Blessed Trinity) made the plays and we didn’t. You got to tip your hat to them.”
Hayes still finished with 15 points — 11 coming in the second half — and was 7-for-10 from the free-throw line after the break. Andrew Jimenez led Kennesaw Mountain with 21 points.
Following Garrett’s 3, Jimenez had a chance to tie it with a layup but was called for traveling. Following a Kennesaw Mountain stop at the other end, Alex White attempted a shot that came up short before the Titans (9-3) sealed it on the line.
Blessed Trinity was on the verge of pulling away late in the third quarter before an 8-0 Kennesaw Mountain run put the Mustangs right back in the game. The run only consumed 1:20 of the clock.
Hayes hit a free throw to start it, then Jimenez hit a 3-pointer from the left wing and came through with a layup on the next possession to cut it to three points. Khaleed Chase intercepted an inbounds pass by Blessed Trinity and put it in the basket to get within one with 24 seconds left in the quarter.
Hayes made three trips to the line early in the fourth quarter, going 4-of-6 to put Kennesaw Mountain in front.
“We had people step up,” Bonner said. “We played tough defense and got turnovers with our pressure.”
It did take time, however, for Kennesaw Mountain to warm up. Cold shooting hurt it early, and the Mustangs trailed 12-6 at the end of the first quarter after shooting just 16 percent from the field.
Trailing 20-9 midway through the second, the Mustangs embarked on a 10-2 run, forcing Blessed Trinity to call a timeout with 3:08 left in the half.
Chris Bertrand led Blessed Trinity with 12 points and Connor O’Neil finished with 11.