Leo’s rivalry with Brother Rice is one of the most storied in school history, and the games always draw a crowd of alums from both schools. The last time the teams met in basketball at Leo, in 2012, the game required five overtimes before the Lions prevailed.

With this year’s meeting scheduled for Leo on Friday, Dec. 19, school officials made the decision to play it at St. Xavier University in the hope of drawing a crowd too large for Leo’s little gym to accommodate. Several alums made contributions to help offset the rental fee, The move paid dividends when approximately 1,200 people turned out to see
the Lions pull out a 55-53 victory on junior Kewan Smith’s jump shot with 1.6 seconds remaining.

Afterwards, a reception for both schools’ alums was held at Brother Rice.

Leo got off to a sluggish start and trailed 20-8 after one quarter, by 12 (44-32) after three quarters and by 16 early in the fourth. But a fullcourt press forced the young Crusaders into nine fourth-quarter turnovers, and Leo took advantage, outscoring Rice 23-9 in the final period. Darias Oliver’s free throw tied the game with just under a minute remaining. He missed a second free throw, but the Lions rebounded and held the ball for the last shot.

With six seconds remaining, Smith drove into the lane, pulled up and popped in a left-handed jumper from about 12 feet, giving him a season-high 12 points and Leo its fifth win in eight games overall. Oliver scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the final period as the Lions raised their Catholic League record to 4-2.

Leo is off until Friday, Dec. 26, when it will begin play in the McDipper Holiday Tournament at Rich South High School in Richton Park. The Lions will meet  Rich Central in their opening game at 9 a.m. (The full tournament bracket is available on the McDipper Web site, McDipper.com.)