From the opening tip Saturday, third-seeded Simsboro’s strategy was clear — suffocate No. 7 seed Anacoco in the Class B semifinal at the CenturyLink Center.
The Tigers saw immediate dividends.
Thanks to a 29-point advantage off turnovers, Simsboro, a team stocked with upperclassmen, punished youthful Anacoco, 62-41, and earned a second straight appearance in the state championship game.
“Ever since that last game ended last year, we’ve been thinking about getting back there,” Simsboro guard Jamarco Brown said.
The Tigers (25-6) will face Madison Prep Academy, the top seed, for the Class B championship in Monroe next week.
Anacoco head coach Kevin Jeane knew what was coming, even before Saturday afternoon began. He just didn’t have the resources to stop it.
“You can’t simulate that size and quickness (in practice),” Jeane said. “In the first half I think we were a little star struck.”
The Indians (31-7) boast two seniors, two juniors and 10 sophomores. The Tigers exploited the inexperience with relentless defensive pressure that sparked a 13-2 run in the first quarter.
Simsboro wasn’t threatened again.
“We let them get us into their tempo right off that bat, playing the game exactly how they wanted it to be played,” Jeane said. “When you get someone that is quicker, more athletic than you, you can’t play their style of game.
“Once they got the lead, we had to play their style just to get back in it.”
That never happened. The Indians committed 24 turnovers in the contest – 15 in the first half.
The Tigers scored 33 points off turnovers, compared to four by Anacoco.
Brown paced Simsboro on offense with 19 points and six steals, while Duntavious Harris had 11 points. Bret Phillips scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Anacoco. Samuel Turnipseed added 10 points, matching his number of turnovers.
Next week, Simsboro will look to erase the bitter feelings that remain from last year’s Class B championship game loss to Zwolle in Ruston.
“We set one goal for the season,” Tigers senior forward Daniel Ogunyemi said. “Not just us – our fans and our supporters. They want us to get back to the championship. We felt what it’s like to be there. We’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves, but we’re going to play as hard as we can.”
The 6-foot-3 Ogunyemi led the Tigers with eight rebounds. Thus far, he believes Simsboro has enjoyed a good season.
“We have one opportunity to make it great,” he said.