By T. Scott Boatright
After a tight first half in a Class 5A boys first-round playoff game against Dutchtown, the Ruston High School Bearcats rode a third quarter surge to a 57-44 victory Friday night at the RHS Main Gym.
The third-seeded Bearcats (25-4) will next play host to 14th-seeded East Ascension (16-9) at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets to that game will cost $8 at the door.
Against 30th-seeded Dutchdown, Ruston led only 10-7 at the end of the opening stanza before Dutchtown’s Stephen Aguillard netted the second of his five 3-point shots on the night to tie things up at 10-10 at the 7:20 mark of the second quarter.
The Griffins moved on top at 12-10 with 6:45 left in the first half on an inside shot by Lathan Webster before Ruston’s Lonnie Dimmer’s offensive rebound and putback shot tied it up at 12-12 just 31 seconds later.
The Bearcats built a five-point lead at 17-12 on an inside shot plus a free throw by McNeal with 5:02 left in the first half.
The only basket scored in the final four minutes came on a 3-pointer by Anding off an assist from McNeal with 1:19 on the clock, and the Bearcats took a 20-15 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“If I had to give it a grade, we passed,” Bond said. “But we’ve got to play better. We knew they weren’t your typical No. 30 seed. They started out the year 3-9 and then won 10 of their last 15. So, I knew and had told the guys repeatedly that Dutchtown is a good basketball team. They’re really, really well-coached. They play hard for all 32 minutes and never quit, and they’ve got five seniors that play.
“We came out with some nerves, which is to be expected. We got some traction in the second half, but it’s in my nature not to give up anything easy. We missed too many layups. It should have been a (larger margin of victory).”
The Bearcats came out strong in the third quarter, outscoring Dutchtown 21-9 in the stanza behind a 10-0 run as the Bearcats led 41-24 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
That lead was good enough for the Bearcats to withstand being outscored 20-16 in the fourth quarter, but the fact the Griffins were able to do that left Bond with some concerns
“I was pleased with the run in the third quarter,” Bond said. “I was pleased that we pushed the lead to 22 points. But then we decided we weren’t going to rebound anymore. We let people drive by us. We let their best player shoot the ball.
“We knew No. 2 was their best player and No. 12 made some good shots tonight. But we were helping off the shooter, and you don’t help off the shooter, you help off of somebody on the weak side. It was just some defensive breakdowns that concern me. It was a great crowd, and I appreciate the people for coming out. We absolutely need more people here Tuesday night.”
McNeal led Ruston with 20 points while Dillon Wilson added 11 for the Bearcats and Anding chipped in with nine.
“If we want to get to where we want to get to, we’ve got to play better,” said Bond. “If we play Tuesday like we played tonight, we’ll probably get beat. We’ve got to play smarter and play harder. It’s not going to get any easier from here on out.”
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