Bossier has faced lengthy teams before, but the combination of University Lab’s athleticism and length proved to be elixir to Bossier’s pesky defense.
The No. 3 Cubs pulled away from the No. 2 Bearkats in a 71-49 win Thursday that advances Lab to play No. 4 Richwood on Saturday for the Class 3A title.
University shot a scorching 62 percent (23-of-37) while Bossier struggled to shoot over Lab’s lengthy zone and made 19-of-62 (30 percent).
“We’re excited about getting another opportunity to be here, but we didn’t reach our goal,” said Bossier coach Jeremiah Williams, who has led the Bearkats to six straight state tournaments. “They did a good job of sitting in their zone and using their length to disrupt our shots. Even our jump shots, they got out and tipped and blocked some. We came to fight and to win … they were just the better team today.”
Devonte Hall scored a team-high 19 points on 8-of-21 shooting in his final high school game, having to work to find a sliver of daylight for his shot. Kentrell Hardy added 12 points in the loss. Malik Dunn contributed eight points and nine rebounds.
“It’s hard because we’re shorter than them, but we don’t many any excuses,” Hall said. “We didn’t get the job done tonight.
“The shots just didn’t fall. We had good looks, and they just didn’t fall.”
University (25-7) stormed to a 19-6 first quarter lead before a Hall 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Bearkats (26-8) a little momentum.
The Cubs’ Skylar Mays and Wayde Sims contributed five points each in that quarter. But Sims saved his best for the second half, where he scored 24 of his game-high 29 points.
Sims did a lot of his damage at the free-throw line, where he went 13-of-15. Mays added 10 points and 10 assists while D.J. White had 16 points.
A physical Bossier defense was whistled for 26 fouls and had Hardy and Jerico Moss foul out. University made 21-of-32 free throws, but even though coach Joe Spencer said he would like to see that percentage higher, he added that his Cubs absorbed Bossier’s defensive intensity.
“We took care of the ball,” said Spencer, whose team had just 10 turnovers. “Taking care of the ball and taking good shots were key.
“We were just smarter down the stretch than we were in previous games. Bossier’s really good, and if you’re going to win a (Class 3A) state title, you’re going to have to go through Bossier and Richwood. Bossier does wear teams down, and Richwood does the same thing.”
The Cubs face No. 4 Richwood on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the 3A title.
Williams said playing from behind was damaging, but Bossier slowed the tempo and cut the Cubs’ lead to 25-18 at halftime.
But University scored the first six points of the third quarter and eventually grew their lead to 49-32 at the end of the third quarter.
Bossier started making a run, but a charge on Malik Dunn erased a basket. An ensuing technical foul – one of two against Bossier — pushed University’s lead to 52-38 with 6:30 left.
The Bearkats got as close as 55-44 on a Hall 3-pointer, but the Cubs ended the game on a 16-5 run.
Bossier is 2-4 in semifinal games in their six straight appearances, winning a Class 4A title in 2011.
Hall was a freshman on the title team, but he said he appreciated the progress that this season’s team made with the 6-foot-2 guard as their only returning starter. Bossier started 7-5 before turning the corner and bringing a 16-game winning streak into Thursday’s semifinal.
Williams added that while all of the state tournament teams are special, this season’s squad is distinct in his mind.
“This is my sixth time in a row, and of all the times … to see this team have this opportunity and the way we did it, I’m so proud of them for getting to this point. We overachieved in a lot of areas this year, and it was due to our hard work and commitment. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to coach these guys. We had a chance and that’s all you can ask for … it just wasn’t our year.”