By Malcolm Butler
Ruston coach Ryan Bond wasn’t a happy camper during the first half of his Bearcats contest against Carroll Thursday night in the first day of the Remington Butler Memorial Classic at the RHS Gym.
His Cats were losing to those Dogs … as in the Carroll Bulldogs.
Carroll got off to a hot start behind the shooting of Lavion Owens, who connected on four three-pointers in the opening quarter to lead the Bulldogs to an 18-11 advantage through the first eight minutes.
“I’ve seen enough film to know he is a streaky shooter,” said Bond. “He can do that and then he can miss the next six. It’s why it’s called the law of averages and not absolutes.
“I thought we were playing a little tentative on offense. They were giving us some driving lane opportunities early. We were holding the ball. They were switching and we were holding the ball. So the switches would take place without us applying any pressure on the defense.
“Our focus wasn’t great in the first half.”
At one point, Bond called a timeout and his deep voice could be heard throughout the gym, much less the Bearcats huddle.
Ruston began to wake up in the second quarter, pulling to within 22-20 at the half as four different Bearcats hit a bucket in the stanza while limiting Carroll to just four points. It was just the start of what was to come in the second half for Ruston.
“I just knew we were better than 20 points in a half,” said Bond. “We can do that in a quarter.”
They almost did.
Ruston outscored Carroll 18-4 in the third quarter to grab a 38-26 lead and then basically coasted to the 21-point win. Braylan McNeal scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the second half while Jay Lillard added 11 points and Joran Parker chipped in with 10 points in the victory. Aiden Anding added eight points.
“We knew they didn’t have a shot blocker,” said Bond. “We knew they didn’t have charge takers. We knew we could get some things at the rim. The guys adjusted.”
Bond also talked about the addition of Zhy Scott, Zheric Hill and Semaj Jones — three Bearcats who played football and just returned to the hardwood.
“We have had two full practices with them,” said Bond. “Our intensity level has been raised. They bring in a certain physicality and mental toughness that is adding to what we already had. They are still getting into basketball shape. They are better than they were in their first practice Sunday. And they are better than their first game Monday … neither one of them fouled out. They are smart guys, and they will help us. They make us better.”
Both Scott and Hill saw playing time in the win with Scott adding five points.
4 p.m. Arcadia vs. Neville
5:30 p.m. Southwood vs. Jonesboro-Hodge
7 p.m. Ruston vs. Franklin Parish
2 p.m. Southwood vs. Arcadia
3:30 p.m. Franklin Parish vs. Carroll
5 p.m. Ruston vs. Neville