LAKE CHARLES – Simsboro’s vaunted offense struggled early and stagnated late Tuesday evening in the LHSAA’s Class B boys basketball semifinals.
But the Tigers’ defense not only kept them in range early, it triggered an overwhelming eruption in the middle of the game. That was just enough as Simsboro held off hard-to-kill Hathaway, 67-61, and advanced to Friday night’s state championship game – again.
The Boro, as it says on those snazzy uniform tops, is in the state final for the fourth straight season, aiming for a third championship trophy. It will be a tall order to subdue 6-6 Northwestern State signee Shaun Riley and the rest of the top-seeded Anacoco Indians, but the second-seeded Tigers have experience on their side and a sense of accomplishment after advancing without their A-game.
One of the higher scoring high school basketball teams in the country couldn’t convert for most of the first half, despite a fast tempo. But in the final four-plus minutes of the second quarter, and continuing in the third quarter, Simsboro hit its stride.
The Tigers (23-2) ran off 12 straight points down the stretch in the second period, turning a 24-21 deficit into a nine-point advantage before Hathway got a last-second bucket to make it 33-26 at the half.
The Hornets scored first in the third quarter, but had a Tiger by the tail. Nick Maryland poured in 10 of his 25 points in the third period, including back-to-back 3-pointers as Simsboro used a 18-4 burst to open a commanding 51-32 lead.
Combined, the end of the first half and most of the third quarter saw The Boro outscore Hathaway 30-8.
“We try to get through the first half and win the third quarter,” said Tigers’ coach Josh Brown. “We get into halftime and make adjustments. We try to wear down the opponent with our pressure defense and our relentless offensive attack.”
“Our guys locked in at halftime, and we made those adjustments,” said Brown in an understatement.
Maryland drained 4 of 8 from behind the 3-point arc in his big night, but his seven steals were equally devastating to the Hornets (22-6).
“Our defense was going good, and the offense wasn’t,” he said. “We hyped up the defense to get the offense going.”
His long-range stroke led a 7 of 14 performance on 3-pointers by The Boro.
“My teammates gave me good looks and I just knocked down a lot of those shots,” said the junior.
Senior Jamarian Cato added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers, who survived 22 turnovers that helped melt down their 19-point lead.
Despite getting floored heading to the fourth period, the Hornets buzzed back. Simsboro left the door open by missing 13 of 25 free throws, most of them on the front side of 1-and-1 opportunities.
It was 65-48 Simsboro after Maryland nailed his last trey with just under four minutes left. The Tigers didn’t move the scoreboard again until Maryland swished two free throws with 11 seconds to go, ending a burst of 13 unanswered points from Hathaway, which missed a free throw with 16 ticks left that could have made it a one-possession margin (65-62).
“I’m just glad we held them off,” said Brown. “Getting to our fourth straight state championship game, that’s a big accomplishment. But it’s not our goal.”
That would be celebrating about 9 o’clock Friday night in Burton Coliseum.
BASEBALL: Ruston’s Isaac White, Dyson Fields and Bryant Simpson pitched a combined five-inning no-hitter Tuesday night and the Bearcats (6-3) stole 11 bases in a 10-0 romp over visiting North Caddo. A seven-run first inning set the tone.
RHS goes to Byrd Thursday at 5:30 to open a four-game tour of Shreveport-Bossier over three days.
Cedar Creek (4-4) battled Class 5A Ouachita Parish competitively Tuesday evening in Monroe but fell 6-1 despite three hits by J.T. Stephens, and two from Jack Parks. The Cougars are off until next Tuesday’s home game against Union Parish.
Simsboro photos by Rick Hickman, Lake Charles American Press