The lifestyle for Catholic's boys basketball team is tough.
No surprise then, that tough was the route Catholic took in a 51-49 thriller against Walton to secure the District 1-4A championship Saturday at home.
The Crusaders (16-10) let a double-digit lead slip away in the second half as the Braves came charging back to tie the title match with 71 seconds left.
But Catholic, which never trailed, got a huge bucket from 6-foot-5 sophomore Quan Moorer and denied a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to hoist the hardware.
"I just tried to keep everybody calm," said Moorer, who finished with a team-high 14 points. "We didn't need to panic. We had to stay together as a team and in that fourth quarter, we brought the momentum back."
It was hard to wrestle it free from Walton. Braves senior Deshun Tucker shot the lights out with a second-half explosion of 22 points.
The senior finished with a game-high 27 as he scored 12 of his team's 17 points in the final quarter.
Tucker buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with Emon Smith in his hip pocket and followed that up with a jaw-dropping, fall-away jumper over Smith to slice Catholic's lead to a single basket with 2:46 left.
Tucker did most of this without the services of one of his contact lenses, which was found on the baseline during a timeout in the waning moments.
"Deshun Tucker is the real deal," Crusaders coach Nick Mead said. "To light it up like that with Emon chasing him all night, that's all on him."
But Tucker, like his fellow Braves, began the night slowly while Catholic bolted from the gates.
The Crusaders started the night on fire, especially from beyond the 3-point arc. Between junior Nik Bell's hat trick and teammate Malcolm Greene, Catholic buried five treys to end the first period with a commanding 23-8 lead.
"In our gym, you hope that happens in big games," Mead said. "Walton changed their defense last night, so we didn't know what we're going to see when we came out.
"We wanted to go inside-out, and the outside shot fell."
When the well went dry after the first period, the playmaking Bell became a distributor, handing out assists.
"My teammates set me up," Bell said. "I could drive and pull up or throw over the top of (the Braves)."
The close-quartered bandbox was quieter than a library before the pregame introductions. It came alive during the closing minutes as the tension built.
Echoes of cheer bouncing off the walls, each subsequent one flooding the previous roar out.
After Walton's Ken Randolph came up short on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer, Mead raced over to his young family to celebrate.
Soft kisses for wife Ashley and 3-year-old daughter MacKenzie with newborn Grant close by, and it was off to share in the spoils with his tough group of young men.
"That's how this group has been all year," Mead said. "They worked every day, tirelessly, since the season ended last year. If they play tough and play together, it'll all be OK."
District 1-4A Final
CATHOLIC 51, WALTON 49
Catholic...23 10 6 12 -- 51
Walton...8 9 15 17 -- 49
Catholic (16-10) -- Green 6, Bell 11, Moorer 14, Hartnett 6, Smith 6, Jennings 1, Berry 7.
Stats: Bell 3 assists, 3 rebounds; Berry 5 rebounds; Moorer 7 rebounds; Hartnett 6 rebounds; Smith 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals.
Walton -- Tucker 27, Huffman 4, Randolph 1, Williams 2, Phillips 1, Gee 4, A. Campbell 6, Terrell Campbell 4.