Severe weather swept across northwest Louisiana Tuesday night.
The North Webster boys basketball team expected to face a storm inside the Mansfield gym as well.
But the Knights were ready.
“We knew we were going to have to weather a storm early,” said North Webster coach Rodney Thrash, whose team upset the Wolverines 63-53. “That was a huge shot in the arm for us.
“We had just about set our goal for second place, knowing that it would be tough to beat them on the road, but that win put us back in the district race. It will also help a lot for seeding for playoffs. The kids were so excited.”
Mansfield (18-8, 6-1), the No. 5 team in the LSWA Class 2A poll, had won seven straight games before Tuesday, including its first six in District 1-2A.
But the Knights (15-5, 4-2), the No. 10 team in Class 2A, picked up a statement win on the road.
North Webster led 22-21 at halftime and ran out to a 10-point lead after the third quarter.
“We didn’t settle for 3-point shots,” Thrash said. “We started driving it and kicking it to our post players.”
To slow down Verlan Hunter, Mansfield’s top scoring threat, Thrash used Dontavious Smith, a 6-foot-5 center.
“That was a great win and one that was really needed to bring us closer together and build our confidence,” said Smith, who was able to slow down Hunter, who finished with 16 points. “We expected a tough battle, but we went in focused. We seem to be more focused for away games. We knew they were going to make runs, but we played well.”
The Knights are young, but they showed why no team will be happy to face them in the playoffs. Freshman Devin White led all scorers Tuesday with 21 points, and sophomore Lyntravious Gipson, who has been a constant scoring threat all season, put in 11.
“(White) is growing up every day,” Thrash said. “He’s got a lot of football in him. He’s just now coming into basketball shape and hitting his rhythm. He is very blessed.”
The biggest challenge for Thrash has been getting his players all on the same page.
“We’ve been fighting all year to stress team play,” he said. “I think these guys play AAU ball, and they are so talented, that they are all used to taking over. You can’t have five guys doing that. If we ever get them playing the way we want, we will be very hard to beat. I’m starting to see the signs.”
Smith, a junior who added seven points against the Wolverines, has watched the team grow together during the season.
“I have watched everybody mature greatly,” Smith said. “We’ve all grown a lot. Everyone is focused and together now. We don’t complain about the little things as much. Devin is coming along very well. Everyone is. The atmosphere on the bus on the way home (Tuesday night) was great. We talked about everything, even the bad plays from the game.”
Now, North Webster plans to make a run to finish the season strong and carry momentum into the playoffs.
“It’s going to be tough, and nothing is going to be handed to us,” Smith said. “We have to play every game like it’s our last. Give 1,000 percent. We aren’t going to take any games lightly, and we are going to play our basketball.”