Tim Rogers

A little vacation time can do wonders for the soul.

It also can do wonders for a basketball team.

Archbishop Hoban took a nine-day respite — thanks to taking a first-round bye and moving its final regular-season game back one day — and it paid off Saturday as the rejuvenated Knights turned back visiting Firestone 87-76 in a Division I sectional championship game in Barry Gymnasium.

The victory sent the third-seeded Knights (18-5) to Wednesday’s district semifinals at Copley against top-seeded Brunswick, a 59-42 winner over Highland.

“We needed that time off to get things back together, to get re-acclimated and regain our cohesiveness,” said Hoban coach T.K. Griffith.

It worked.

One of the players who benefitted from the time off was senior Anthony Christian, who shared team scoring honors with sophomore guard Garret Houser, each with 21 points, and pulled down eight rebounds.

“We took that time off and it really helped,” said Christian, who missed a few practices as a Rhode Island football recruit and while fighting a flu-like bug in the final week of the regular season. “I was pretty banged up from football and my body needed a break.”

The loss ended a successful season for the seventh-seeded Falcons, who won the City Series championship and had several key wins down the stretch.

Christian and Houser had plenty of support as junior Brian Cuppett scored 16 points, including 10 in the second half, and sophomore Collen Gurley had 14, including a clutch 3-pointer that gave Hoban the lead for good at 69-67 with 4:46 to play.

The 6-foot-3 Cuppett also pulled down eight rebounds, including five in the second half.

The 21 points by Houser was a 21-point turnaround from the first meeting between the two teams, when he failed to score in Hoban’s 72-54 win.

“That first game, I really wasn’t in it,” Houser said. “I didn’t hit anything. Tonight, I was more aggressive and kept going to the basket.”

Firestone (17-7) also had a balanced attack. Senior guard Jaylin Moore led with 23 points and 6-5 Raybon Lewis, the City Series player of the year, had 18 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Senior Kylan Richburg scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half and junior Tre’maine Gray eight of his 13 in the second.

Both teams attacked the basket early on. Hoban made six of its first seven shots and the Falcons made eight of their first nine and had a 22-17 lead with 3:24 left in the first quarter.

Hoban closed the quarter by scoring 13 consecutive points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Christian, for a 30-22 lead.

Firestone trailed until a Gray basket produced a 67-66 lead with 4:56 to play. But Gurley hit a 3-pointer from the left wing and Houser followed with a driving one-hander a short time later and added yet another basket to give Hoban a 73-69 edge with 3:55 to play.

Firestone missed a shot and turned the ball over on a charging foul sandwiched around two Christian free throws. Another 3-pointer by Gurley with 1:56 left sealed it at 79-69.

“We had a few defensive breakdowns there at the end and gave them too many layups,” Falcons coach Dave Milo said. “But it’s been a great season for us. I have a bunch of great kids.”

Hoban made 30-of-62 field goal attempts and 19-of-25 free throws, while Firestone made 32 field goals on 64 shots and was 8-of-18 at the line.