It wasn’t too long ago that appeared St. Thomas More’s rein as the top dog in District 5-4A was all but over with the emergence of Teurlings Catholic and St. Martinville.
But on Friday, the Cougars proved that knocking them off of their perch won’t be an easy feat.
Behind stifling team defense, a shot in the arm from reserve Deuce Wallace and solid performances by Devante Benjamin and Peter Kishbaugh, the Cougars avoided being swept by the Rebels as they defeated them 48-40 to forge a three-way tie for first place in District 5-4A.
Defensively, the Cougars flat-out got after the Rebels beginning in the final minute of the third quarter with Teurlings leading 30-23 with 52 seconds remaining. The Cougars, who switched out of their 1-3-1 defense and into a man-to-man defense, went onto hold the Rebels without a field for 7:21 while outscoring them 16-2 to take a 39-32 lead with 1:51 left in the game.
“Defensively, we were tremendous,” Cougars head coach Danny Broussard said. “You have to give our defense a lot of credit. We switched from our 1-3-1 and into the man-to-man. We’re not too good at playing man-to-man, but is something that we work on everyday. You have to have for key situations and (Friday) was a good example of why. Just a super effort defensively by our guys.”
Rebels head coach Jake Dueitt credited the Cougars’ defense and chalked up the offensive struggles to simply being one of those nights.
“We just went ice cold at a bad time,” Dueitt said. “We’re up 26-20 and they call a timeout to make adjustments. Unfortunately, we didn’t adjust with them. They did a good job of getting us off of the block, they made plays and they made free throws. Give credit to them. Tip your hat to them.”
How good was the Cougars’ defense?
Not only did they hold the Rebels without a field goal for more than seven minutes, use a 14-0 run at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter to take control of the game, but they held Teurlings’ star player Cole Kelley, who was coming off of a 31 point performance Tuesday to five points.
“Cole Kelley is normally really good shooting three’s, but he has been a little off against us,” Broussard said. “With him being off that helped us a little, but the thing I thought we did well was suffocated him when he got the ball. We had to devote our energy to him because we feel he is the guy that makes them go. You don’t want to give him too many touches because he is tough to stop.”
While their defense was doing a number on the Rebels’ offense, the Cougars found themselves hitting some big shots including a couple of 3-pointers by Kishbaugh, who finished with a game-high 15 points, Benjamin contributed with 14 and nine points from Wallace.
“Deuce Wallace was the player of the game,” Broussard said. “Here’s a kid who didn’t get a chance to start, but he paid his dues and he sparked us offensively and defensively. He got the game ball (Friday). I’m so proud of that kid. What a tremendous performance.”
Wallace, who started the comeback with a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left in the third to pull the Cougars within four at 30-26. He continued to inspire the Cougars once they took a 35-30 lead by scoring six straight points to extend St. Thomas More’s lead to 41-32 with 1:39 left in the game.
“We have to move on and bounce back,” Dueitt said. “We have got to keep playing. There’s a lot of basketball left to be played. You hate to have those poorly executed ball games in the fourth quarter, because we know that we are better than that. It’s disappointing.”