By T. Scott Boatright
Sometimes it’s an unmistakable intangible — watching a basketball get into “The Zone.”
It’s something NBA legend Michael Jordan was famous for.
But on Tuesday night at the Choudrant High School Gym, it was CHS junior Lachlan Thompson who went into the zone as he poured in 29 points to help lead the Class B Aggies to a 74-60 win over 5A West Ouachita.
Choudrant trailed by four with 1:48 remaining in the first half when Thompson fired in a 3-pointer to pull the Aggies within one point of the Chiefs at 24-23.
The Aggies moved on top 30 seconds later when Parker Batterton stopped and popped on a mid-range jumper to give CHS a lead it never would relinquish from there at 25-24.
Choudrant would score six more points in the final 1:18, with Chris Williams nailing a 3-pointer of his own.
Thompson then hit a pair of free throws before taking a pass from Williams and laying it in with three seconds left on the clock to give the Aggies a 31-14 halftime advantage.
CHS coach Ryan Smith realizes how important that end to the first half was for his team.
“I just told them that the beginning of the game felt like a break, or we just got back from a break,” Smith said. “Which we had. I’ve only seen them a couple of times over the past week.
“So once we got that part out of us, and they realized they had to bring a little energy and excitement to the game, going on a run like that to close out the half made a big difference.”
The frustration West Ouachita felt at the end of the first half carried over into the final two quarters, with the Chiefs receiving a floor technical foul before having another one called on their bench.
“Not only does that kind of strong end to the half build a team up, but it’s also kind of a gut punch to the opponent sometimes,” Smith said. “This team is really starting to turn the corner and play. And it got to a point where you kind of felt like, with no disrespect intended by any means, they were kind of waiting for us to go on a run, and we did there late in the first half. The confidence for us was through the roof after that and carried over into the second half.”
Smith said he wasn’t surprised at the physical play shown throughout much of the game by both teams.
“Over all the years, West Ouachita has been very prideful and very tough,” Smith said. “I knew they just weren’t going to go away. Sometimes games do end up being a little more physical than a basketball coach wants it to be, and some of those times happened tonight. But I think the one of the marks of a good team is being able to adapt to how things are going, whether it’s a lull in the game or how things are being called or having to adjust to physical play on the fly. I’m really proud of the way we handled that physicality.”
But in the end, it was Thompson’s night, as he hit a pair of five total 3-pointers on the night in the final 3:15 to seal away the win for Choudrant, which climbed to 10-6 on the season.
“Everyone sees his shooting, and rightfully so,” Smith said about Thompson. “It’s a beautiful thing to see. But I just praised him in front of the group on the fact that every single day, he brings it. Whether it’s before practice, going one-on-one during breaks or whatever, he has a motor that doesn’t stop.
“There was a great block he made from behind in the second half, where he could have quit and started walking back toward our end but instead raced back from behind to make a great play. That kind of sets the tone and example for us that tells the team they’ve got to keep on playing. I love kids with attitudes like that. He puts in so much work. Nights like tonight are years for work coming to fruition, and that’s pretty rewarding as far as being his coach.”
Williams added 19 points for Choudrant, which also received nine points each from Batterton and Trey Harris.
The Aggies will next play at Gibsland-Coleman on Friday.
West Ouachita 60, CHS Lady Aggies 50
The Lady Aggies came out of the gates smoking as Class B Choudrant High School girls played host to 5A West Ouachita Tuesday night inside the CHS Gym.
But the second half was a whole other story as Choudrant watched a six-point advantage melt away in the third quarter as West Ouachita marched on to a win over the Lady Aggies.
Choudrant led 31-25 at the half but trailed 45-39 after a pair of Lady Chiefs successful free throws with 2:52 left in the third quarter
West Ouachita closed out that stanza on a 8-0 run to lead 53-39 heading into the fourth quarter. The Lady Chiefs never looked back from there.
Choudrant cut the West Ouachita lead to nine points on a 3-pointer by Brelyn Pyle with 58.3 seconds remaining, but that’s as close as the Lady Aggies could get in the final eight minutes of play.
“We just couldn’t get a shot to fall in the third,” Underwood said. “We played one of our better halves of basketball this season in the first half, and then we just went cold. We had some just roll off the rim and they stretched it out.”
But even after losing, Underwood was pleased with his team’s effort, especially against a Class 5A opponent.
“We didn’t give up,” he said. “They kept on fighting. I can’t complain about that. I feel really good about the way we played and what we can take away from this game. I always want to win, but I’m not disappointed at all.”
Pyle hit on four 3-pointers in the contest to help lead Choudrant with 16 points while Portilloz added 13 points.
Choudrant will next play at Gibsland-Coleman on Friday night.
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