By T. Scott Boatright
It was a case of David vs. Goliath, but with David not having nearly enough ammunition to take down a giant.
So the outcome was decided early on Thursday night as Class 5A Ruston roared to a 71-29 win over Class B Choudrant in boys basketball action at the RHS Gym.
Choudrant managed to strike first, with Lachlan Thompson’s jumper 44 seconds into the game, putting the Aggies on top 2-0.
And Parker Batterton’s jumper plus free throw pulled the Aggies back within two at 7-5 at the 5:25 mark of the opening stanza.
But without their biggest banger — junior forward Mike Jones, as well as freshman guard Tredon Cage, the Aggies were soon overpowered as the Bearcats methodically took control, with a pair of baskets by Lonnie Dimmer in the final 33 seconds giving Ruston an 18-9 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
Choudrant didn’t give up the fight, but a 15-3 run by the Bearcats over the final 4:38 of the first half pushed Ruston out to a 38-16 lead at the half as RHS slowly but surely wore down the shorthanded smaller school.
But that doesn’t mean Choudrant coach Ryan Smith was disappointed in his team’s effort.
“We scheduled the game for a reason and knew what we were getting into, to be honest,” Smith said of the recently-scheduled contest to help prepare both teams for the playoffs. “We knew we were in for a challenge and there’s no better time to challenge yourself than now.
“It was a little disheartening for our guys who were out and wanted to be out on the court playing in that environment, but I’m proud of the team and there’s a lot of positives we can take away. The great benefit of playing a team like that is it helps us see some of our weaknesses in some of the things we got exposed on. Now we know some of the things we need to remedy before the first round of the playoffs.”
Smith said he focused on the positives during his halftime talk with his team.
“I told them we were there for a purpose and a lot of teams and guys don’t even get a chance to play in a moment like that and show what they’re worth, starting with tonight but then moving on to Simsboro on Saturday and then the first playoff game,” Smith said. “Hopefully we’ll get three, four or five chances to show what we’re about, so we were excited about the challenge.”
Ruston blocked many of the Aggies shots on the night with Choudrant missing Jones, who makes up for in bulk and intensity what he might not have had in height against the taller Bearcats.
Now the question for the Aggies is will Jones be available for the Aggies when they take on Choudrant at 4 p.m. Saturday at West Ouachita with District 2-B bragging rights on the line.
“Tredon Cage (won’t play) play in that one,” Smith said. “Mike’s in limbo. A doctor will look at it and make a determination and we’ll see. He wants to be out there. It was just one of those freak deals — his finger got caught up in the pole that holds the backboard up last Friday night and he sliced his finger and had to get a few stitches.
“The doctor then told him probably seven to 10 days, which we’re nearing, so we’ll see. If it was up to him, he would have played Tuesday against Caldwell. We definitely need him with his skills, his motor and his attitude. That intensity he brings inspires this team.”
Ruston also has a big game this weekend as the Bearcats take on Evangel Christian at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Red River High School.
“Evangel has won 21 games and they’ve got some kids that could play 5A basketball,” said Bearcats coach Ryan Bond. “They’re a good basketball team, so we’re going to have to be ready. It’s one we need for power rankings.
“We need another win going into the playoffs. Evangel is well-coached. They’ve got a kid who’s about 6-4 that can shoot it outside or inside. They’ve got another kid about 6-5. They’ve got two really good guards and have some depth, so it’s going to be a tough game.”
Against the Aggies Thursday night, Ruston took total control in the third stanza, building a 57-24 advantage by the end of the quarter.
The Bearcats built more than a 35-point lead to make it a running clock, per Louisiana High School Athletic Association rules, that made quick work of the final quarter of play.
“I’m just so appreciative of Coach Smith for bringing his guys over. I want them to win every ballgame except for a night like tonight,” Bond said. “They were short-handed missing Mike Jones and a good freshman back-up guard they have. But we were, too. We were without a player tonight. But the guys locked in after missing several layups and took control early, so I was pleased with the effort and the attitude.”
Eleven different Bearcats scored in the contest, led by Braylan McNeal with 12 and Joran Parker’s 11-point performances while Aidan Anding and Zheric Hill added eight points each for the Bearcats and Dimmer and Zhy Scott both chipped in with seven apiece.
Bond said his Bearcats will be ready for both Evangel and the upcoming playoffs.
“Most of the guys are locked in and come in for film and come in for weights and are trying to take care of their bodies by coming in for treatment,” Bond said. “They know what’s at stake.”
Choudrant was led by Batterton with 15 points.
Now the Aggies are firmly focused on Saturday’s game against Simsboro.
“I don’t know how much it will help us power-point wise, but I don’t know if that really matters,” Smith said. “This is one of those things that’s about pride and what we want to accomplish. This team wants to be able to say they’re district champs. That’s their motivation.”
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