LPJ Game of the Week: Bearcats fall; LBC win

By T. Scott Boatright

The Ruston Bearcats had their chance.

Ruston’s Braylin McNeil nailed a long 3-pointer to tie the game up with 4:50 remaining in the contest against Winnfield Monday at the RHS Boys’ Gym.

But in the waning minutes the Bearcats didn’t take care of business. Didn’t take care of the basketball. Didn’t take care of the team.

And the end result was a 68-63 loss to the visiting Tigers.

“I guess we didn’t want it,” a frustrated RHS coach Ryan Bond said after the final horn sounded. “Winnfield played hard. We didn’t. We played selfishly. We were worried about ourselves. Worried about uniforms. Worried about individual points. Worried about anything and everything but winning the game.”

The Bearcats’ loss was their second straight following a 58-57 loss at Carroll on Saturday and dropped RHS to 5-2 on the season.

It was a tight contest throughout that simply got away from the Bearcats in the end.

Winnfield led 14-13 at the end of the first quarter and 35-33 at the half. And the game was knotted up at 51-51 heading into the final stanza.

The Tigers came out hot to start the fourth quarter, scoring five consecutive points in the opening minute to go up on top 56-51 with 7:00 remaining.

But the Bearcats battled back over the next two minutes, with McNeil’s trey with 4:50 left on the clock tying the game at 58-58.

Winnfield countered with four unanswered points before the Tigers began spreading the ball around to slow the game, making an easy layup plus a free throw off a foul with 2:30 remaining to push their advantage to 65-58.

From there, Winnfield continued slow-playing things and forcing the Bearcats to foul, not allowing Ruston any closer than five points the rest of the way.

When asked if he thought the Bearcats could learn from the game, Bond’s frustration showed as he worked to send his players a message.

“They’d have to want to learn from it, and I don’t know if they do,” Bond said. “We have a very good team. We have some good players. But if we don’t play together — play as a team, this kind of thing is going to happen a lot.”

Winnfield’s DJ Duncan led all scorers with 27 points.

The Bearcats were led by McNeal’s 13-point performance while Jay Hillard scored 12, Dillon Wilson added 11, Jackson Pilgreen added 10 and Aidan Anding chipped in with nine.

LADY BEARCATS 71, WINNFIELD 32

Ruston outscored Winnfield 25-4 in the opening stanza and dominated on both offense and defense throughout to take the 71-32 win over the Lady Tigers in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader.

Ruston coach Meredith Graf has seen her team go 6-5 through a tough early schedule and felt good about the way her Lady Bearcats handled Winnfield.

“We needed that. We needed a night where we could just play and have fun,” Graf said. ”We’ve been playing some really tough and good teams. When you’ve been playing teams like Benton, Hathaway, St. Louis, Parkway, Wossman, Liberty — those are teams that are loaded. And if you don’t show up you’re going to get your hat handed to you. So it felt good to have the kind of game we needed tonight.”

Ruston pushed its advantage to 40-15 at the half and 50-25 at the end of the third quarter before hitting the gas and outscoring Winnfield 21-7 in the final eight minutes.

Jaliyah McWain led Ruston with 12 points while Zaccheya Jackson added 11, Cassandra Evans hit for 10, Kemiah Spencer tallied seven and Alexis Foster, Kiona McAllister and LaMarcyah Parker scored six each.

“We’ve got another quick turnaround and tough game coming up tomorrow tonight,” Graf said. “Hopefully this one came easy enough where we won’t be tired and we can come out and play a tough opponent.”

Ruston will play host to Union Parish in a doubleheader set to start with the girls game at 5:30 p.m. today.


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