Micah Coleman knows his team didn’t play its best basketball Tuesday night, but at this point in the season all that matters is winning and advancing.
Natchitoches Central, the No. 2 seed in Class 5A, pulled away from a pesky 19th-seeded Thibodaux squad for a 67-50 win in the Class 5A semifinals at Burton Coliseum to advance to the school’s first state championship game. The Chiefs (30-3) will face No. 1 Scotlandville at 8 p.m. Friday.
Natchitoches didn’t play particularly pretty or efficient basketball, but the Chiefs defended and rebounded, and used a 14-3 run to close the second quarter to open a 15-point halftime lead. They methodically pulled away from a Cinderella squad that had upset two higher-seeded teams to make the Top 28 but never really had much of a shot against a bigger, more athletic NCHS team Tuesday night.
“They are a good basketball team,” said Thibodaux coach Tony Clark, whose team finished the season 23-9. “They’re long and athletic. They’ve got the formula. That’s what you need.”
Junior Danny Cohen, the Chiefs’ leading scorer in the playoffs, finished with a game-high 24 points. Sophomore forward Austin Guy finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and 6-foot-9 sophomore center Cameron Lard flirted with a triple-double before finishing with 10 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks.
The Chiefs outrebounded Thibodaux 46-16 in the game and had as many offensive rebounds as the Tigers had total rebounds. Natchitoches Central coach Micah Coleman also said his team defended really well, limiting Thibodaux to just 30 percent shooting on the game.
“If we rebound the ball, we’ve got an opportunity to compete with anybody on the floor,” Coleman said.
Natchitoches Central didn’t play well offensively. The Chiefs shot 46 percent from the field, but made just two 3-pointers and committed 15 turnovers. But their size on the interior and defensive tenacity played a huge role in Tuesday’s victory.
“I thought we really locked down and did a great job on No. 24, (Natron) Nora, who’s a great player,” Coleman said.
Nora, who entered the game averaging 13 points per game as the Tigers’ leading scorer, finished with just two points on 1-of-9 shooting. Junior guard Chris Bryant led Thibodaux with 13 points, while senior center Rashyad King added 11 points.
Cohen set the tone, scoring the game’s first basket in the first four seconds. He had just four points in the first quarter but heated up in the second quarter and scored eight of his 24 in the third quarter as the Chiefs pulled away. They led by 23 heading into the fourth and led by as many as 25 before a sloppy finish allowed Thibodaux to get within 15 points.
“We’re still not satisfied wit hwhere we’re at,” Coleman said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”