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Flashes relying on Big Three’

St. Aloysius’ Anthony Rector, left, goes in for a scoop shot against Mississippi School for the Deaf’s Ro’Derrick Brown, a Vicksburg resident, on Thursday. The Flashes open the playoffs on Tuesday at 8 p.m. against Cathedral. (Jenny SevcikThe Vicksburg Post)

[2/16/04]St. Aloysius has relied on its “Big Three” to carry them throughout the season.

Drew Mazzanti, Anthony Rector and Kyle Richards form a senior trio that has led the Flashes (10-15, 8-4) to the No. 4 seed in the Region 7-1A Tournament, which begins Tuesday in Natchez. St. Al will face fifth-seeded Cathedral on its home court at 8 p.m.

Each player brings a unique aspect to the offense. Mazzanti is the court general who runs the plays and distributes the ball. Rector creates opportunities for himself and teammates by slashing to basket. And everything revolves around the post dominance of Richards, who leads the team with 19.7 points per game.

“They’ve been with me for four years, and I’ve watched them grow from freshmen to what they are now,” St. Al coach Paul Hayden said. “Our win-loss record, I wish was a little bit better, and it should have been a little bit better but I really think we’re a team that teams don’t want to play in the district tournament.”

When those three are clicking like they were on Thursday, few will be able to stop them. Against the Mississippi School for the Deaf (19-5, 8-4), Mazzanti notched a triple-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists, Richards had 25 points and nine rebounds, and Rector added 19 points and 10 assists.

They sparked a 19-for-22 second half to come from behind and win 76-70 on senior night.

“We’re playing a lot better together as a team,” said Mazzanti, who is averaging 9.8 points per game. “We’re starting to come together at the end of the season, starting to gel a little better.”

Thursday was a step in the right direction for the Flashes, and they hope to continue it against Cathedral a team they have defeated twice this season but playing away from their gym has given them problems all year. The Flashes are 6-4 at home and 4-11 on the road including three of their four region losses.

St. Al also has had problems with playing complete games. The players occassionally become complacent and drift away during the game, leading to inconsistency and turnovers.

“It’s been a problem for us all year, playing four quarters and playing on the road,” Hayden said. “We are a thousand times better when we play at home. I don’t know what it is, if it’s the bus ride down to somewhere or what.

“We’ve put very few four-quarter games together. Even in some of our wins, we still didn’t play four quarters.”

The lack of depth on the bench could play a factor as well, causing fatigue in the starters.

“We only go about seven deep, maybe,” said Rector, who is averaging 13.7 points per game. “That’s hard. I know I’ve played I can’t say how many full games without sitting out at all this year.”

If the Flashes had scored one more point on Thursday, they would have edged out MSD for the No. 3 seed.

By rule, the team with the better head-to-head point differential would claim the higher seed, but St. Al and MSD have defeated each other by six points apiece. The second tiebreaker comes in each team’s record against higher-seeded teams. MSD is 2-2 against Bogue Chitto and West Lincoln, and St. Al is 1-3.

Last season St. Al made an improbable run to the tournament’s championship game, where it lost to West Lincoln. Rector hopes his team can get back there one more time.

“Going into the playoffs, it’s a whole different state of mind,” Rector said. “Last year we went in and played at a whole different level.

“We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to get back to playing like that if we’re going to have a chance.”