By Kyle Roberts
Following a 75-35 dominating performance on Tuesday night against East St. John, the No. 2 Ruston Bearcats have the chance to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1988, which is also the last time the Bearcats took home the state championship trophy.
In order to do that, they will first have to advance against the No. 7 Barbe Buccaneers Friday, March 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the Ruston High Main Gym.
“Barbe has a very talented team,” Ruston head coach Ryan Bond said. “They have a very strong point guard that can get to the room; he’s a very good shooter. And the have a 6’6” post player that is a very good shot blocker. He plays volleyball with the basketball; he doesn’t block the ball; he kills it.
“I believe in our guys. We are ready for tonight. I’m looking forward to a packed house.”
The Bearcats utilized a complete performance on both sides of the ball in the second round over ESJ’s oversized Wildcat squad, heading into the second quarter up 11-7 before outscoring their opponents 64-28 for the remainder of the night. Senior Braylan McNeal led the way with 18 points, while sophomore Aiden Anding added 11 points with three three-pointers.
“We talked about how we had picked up some bad habits on the defensive end,” Bond said after Tuesday night’s win. “And we really stressed it. I’m so proud of them. They locked in defensively. East St. John came out, and they were ready to go. But you could just see when we started tightening up the screws on the defensive end. They got tighter; they couldn’t get to their spots; they couldn’t get to offensive rebounds because we finished defensive possessions with a rebound most of the time. And even when they did get the offensive rebound, we were there to contest all those shots.
“That’s been my motto ever since I got into coaching— that we’re going to guard. Tonight, we played an overall 32 minutes. I’m so proud of them, and I’m lucky to get to coach team.”
Barbe won their home second-round matchup against No. 10 Southside 50-49 in overtime. The Buccaneers were co-district champions in District 3-5A during the regular season.
Tickets will be $10 for general admission, and the doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
The game will be streamed live on BearcatNationNetwork.com.