The Mission Prep Royals' 68-65 victory over the St. Joseph Knights is a prime example of why coaches always preach — never give up.

Early in the second quarter of Tuesday night’s PAC 8 League boys basketball game at St. Joseph’s Hofschulte Gym, the Royals were down by 20 points — 32-12.

But Mission Prep didn’t come unglued.

The Royals kept battling, tightening their defense while their offense finally found its rhythm, until they finally grabbed their first lead with 2:55 left in the game.

The Royals’ (11-6, 5-1 PAC 8) defenders stepped up their game while offense got into high gear in the final quarter, outscoring the Knights (11-8, 4-2) 22-10 to pull off the come-from-behind win.

“First we had to settle down a little bit from that frantic start,” said Mission Prep head coach Terrance Harris. “St. Joseph was doing a good job on penetrating on us — a good job in the paint.”

“My guys played hard. You can’t fault them for that,” said St. Joseph head coach Tom Mott. “But we only went to the foul line seven times (hitting four free throws) and you can’t win a game going to the foul line just seven times.”

The Royals’ Bryce Hilton hit three 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter, good for nine of his 12 points to key the fourth quarter surge.

Mission Prep hit 11 3-pointers in the game that helped cut into the Knights’ lead.

With the Knights up 8-6 early in the game, St. Joseph’s Elihu Cobb muscled his way in for a layup.

That keyed an 8-0 run to put the Knights’ up 16-6.

After the Hilton knocked down his first three, the Knights closed the quarter on a 10-6 run, that began with Matt Chavez’s fast break layup and ended when Kainoa Keuma hit a short jumper at the buzzer for a 26-9 lead at the end of the quarter.

The Knights’ Elihu Cobb scored 10 of his game high 18 points and Angel Ortiz scored eight of his 12 in the first quarter.

The Royals’ Max Rowley opened the second quarter hitting a three from the left baseline but St. Joseph’s Angel Ortiz hit a layup in traffic. Ortiz then fed Michael Ramirez inside for another two and then Tevesi Auau grabbed his own rebound and put it back for a 6-0 run and a 32-12 lead.

“My guys did a good job of not panicking and settled into playing a good, intelligent game,” said Harris. “We’ve got seven seniors and they showed poise and leadership. That allowed us to chip away at their lead. They understood what they had to do to get back in the game and they did it.”

And the Royals didn’t just fold up their tents.

They went on a 7-0 run with a Kyle Colvin layup, a steal followed by a Remy Paquet layup and a Rowley 3-pointer to cut the St. Joseph lead to 13.

The Royals trimmed the lead to 11 at the half and nine at the end of three quarters before going on their fourth quarter run to victory.

When Hilton hit a three off the glass to open the fourth, the momentum had clearly shifted to the Royals.

Still down by six midway through the fourth, Colvin scored on a driving layup, Paquet hit two free throws followed by a Parker Jones steal and one-man fast break to tie the game 60-all with 3:52 left in the game.

“We had too many turnovers,” said Mott. “They have experienced senior guards and they got the team into its offense and did what they needed to do to win the game.”

Cobb got the Knights back on top with a nice spin move down low that led to an easy layup and a 62-60 lead.

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Hilton then hit a three to give Mission Prep a one point lead.

Chavez answered with a three for the Knights but Hilton came right back with a three from the left baseline for a 66-65 Mission Prep lead with 2:12 left in the game.

St. Joseph came back and missed a 3-pointer then had trouble getting off a shot the rest of the way.

Mission Prep missed its next shot but got the rebound. Again they missed and came away with the rebound.

The Knights stole the ball but had trouble getting a handle on it and the ball went out of bounds.

The Royals got off three more shots and came away with three rebounds before Rowley grabbed the final rebound and put it up for a basket and a 68-65 lead with 10-seconds left in the game.

“Rowley’s basket with 10-second left was enormous,” said Harris. “It took it from a one-point game to a three-point game.”

The tried to work the ball around the key to get a shot at a game-tying three but the Royals stole the ball with 1-second left and dribbled out the clock.

“St. Joseph is a really good team. Winning in the PAC 8is not easy – anybody can beat any other team,” said Harris. “I’m proud of my team and the way they responded tonight.”

“They’re a great team. You have to know that sooner or later, they’re going to start hitting their shots,” said Mott. “The game just ended at the wrong time for us tonight.”

St. Joseph continues PAC 8 play Friday at San Luis Obispo.

Mission Prep plays at Paso Robles on Friday.