Matt Fitzpatrick exhaled and uttered, "Finally, a meaningful win."
Sure, Davenport Assumption's boys basketball team has compiled some nice victories in the first half of the season but Tuesday night was a signature triumph for Fitzpatrick's Knights.
Six-foot-11 senior post Liam Robbins scored a career-high 22 points, 18 of those in the second half, as Assumption staved off last year's Class 3A state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier 62-60 at Assumption High School.
"We've just really been challenging these guys to get over the hump and that we needed to beat a good team," Fitzpatrick said. "These guys are all-in. We're starting to figure out we have a good team, and this is big for our confidence that we can play with the best teams in the state."
Robbins is a significant reason for that.
The post grew 5 inches in the offseason and continues to improve with each outing. He made 9 of 12 shots and had 11 of Assumption's 13 points in the third quarter.
"He's made a huge, huge difference for us," said Assumption junior guard Trent Fitzpatrick, who tallied 11 points. "We've found our identity and that is an inside-out approach. When we needed baskets, we could go to him."
Robbins averaged just a little more than 4 points a game last year and never totaled more than 13 in a contest. He's reached double figures in three of his last five games.
In particular, Robbins showed nifty footwork around the rim to finish moves.
"The coaches have been great and worked with me everyday in practice, 30 to 40 minutes on footwork alone," Robbins said. "They don't make it easy on me in practice."
Coach Fitzpatrick called his center dominant despite sitting the entire second quarter with two fouls. Xavier (2-5) did not have an answer for him in the second half.
"Great things happen for our team and for Liam when we play through him," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm really happy for him because he's worked really, really hard and been through a lot with his body. His body is just starting to catch up with himself and he's starting to take off and have success."
The Knights (5-3) needed every ounce of his production to fend off the Saints.
Assumption built a 49-38 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Xavier stormed back behind increased defensive intensity and guard Matt Mims. After Mims misfired on 10 of his first 11 shots, he scored 13 fourth-quarter points.
"We've got to guard for four quarters, and in stretches we didn't," Xavier coach Ryan Luehrsmann said. "We brought a different level of intensity and energy at the end. Hopefully, that is something we can build on."
Luke Fennelly split a pair of free throws with 7.4 seconds left to give Assumption a 62-60 lead. Mims came down and launched a 3-pointer from the top of the key for the win but it didn't even touch the rim.
"Right as he shot it, my heart stopped," Trent Fitzpatrick said. "When the ball went out of bounds, it was the great feeling I've had."
The victory matches Assumption's win total from last season and marks the program's first three-game win streak under Fitzpatrick.
"I wanted this win for the guys," coach Fitzpatrick said. "I'm really proud of the effort. We really competed from start to finish."