In a buzzer-to-buzzer thriller, Mobile's Murphy High pulled away in the waning seconds Saturday night to outlast Catholic 52-46 and take home the Catholic Christmas Classic championship.
The Crusaders (10-6), plagued by a sluggish start, missed free throws and multiple turnovers, still managed to challenge the Panthers throughout the game -- something head coach Nick Mead was looking for from his players as the team gets ready for the postseason.
"(Murphy) looks similar to a lot of teams that we have to get through to go where we want to go," Mead said. "It was a good experience for us. Murphy is very well-coached; they're a very good ball club. They deserve a lot of credit for that game."
But so does Quan Moorer. After leading the Crusaders with 14 points against South Forsyth on Friday, Moorer delivered again in the title game.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed multiple rebounds to help keep the Crusaders within striking distance of the Panthers (16-2).
After the Crusaders fell behind 15-6 in the first quarter, Moorer and company went on an 8-0 scoring run to start the second that cut Murphy's lead to 15-14. Brad Hartnett -- who finished with 10 points, including two 3-pointers -- got the scoring started for Catholic with a layup at the 7:08 mark. Clarke Berry added another basket before Moorer hit two free throws and a layup to complete the run.
Emon Smith ended the quarter with a steal and charged down the court for a layup to make the score 19-18 Murphy.
"The game was the tempo we wanted to play, the score we wanted to play," Mead said. "But there were a couple of key plays down the stretch that we have to get better at."
Catholic was able to take a 27-25 lead with 3:10 left in the third quarter after Hartnett hit his first 3-pointer. But Murphy forced two turnovers and continued to hold off Catholic until another Hartnett 3-pointer chipped the Panthers' lead to 32-30 to end the quarter.
Moorer helped spark a 6-1 Catholic run to start the final period with a spinning layup. He later drew a foul and made two free throws before Chance Donaldson also drove the lane for a layup to give the Crusaders a 36-31 lead.
But the Panthers responded with a scoring run of their own, and missed free throws and turnovers kept the Crusaders at bay. Catholic finished 13-of-24 at the foul line.
"It's about growth," Mead said. "It's about learning to get better every game. The thing about this whole tournament is that we played three teams whose style of play and tempo were very different, and we had to learn to adjust."
Catholic Christmas Classic
MURPHY 52, CATHOLIC 46
Murphy...14 4 13 20 -- 52
Catholic...6 12 12 16 -- 46
Catholic (10-6) -- Malcolm Greene 3, T.J. Jennings 2, Nic Bell 2, Clarke Berry 2, Quan Moorer 17, Brad Hartnett 10, Emon Smith 8, Chance Donaldson 2.