LAFAYETTE — When New Iberia High School found itself down to Hamilton Christian late in the first half Friday, Yellow Jackets coach Todd Russ said he was thrown for an early loop.
“I know (Hamilton) coach (Dexter) Washington was going to be ready to play,” Russ said. “He is usually a zone guy, but he came out and played man-to-man. We were prepared for a zone and that threw our rhythm off. They hit some big shots early on and it then became a chess match to see how we could get our guys going.”
Hamilton Christian found itself up 11 points late in the first half, but NISH cut the lead to 31-26 before halftime. The Yellow Jackets then went on a 12-4 run in the third and eventually pulled away with a 56-52 win.
“In the end, we just wore them down,” Russ said. “We had more bodies and we were able to speed the game up and get the pace in our favor. We had some guys step up — different guys at different times. I don’t think anyone for us played great and when times got tough, we didn’t mail it in.”
Washington agreed with Russ, pointing to team fatigue as a key component to the Warriors’ demise.
“When your post person is not a threat, you’re relying on guard play,” Washington said. “I have some great guards, but they are doing more than they need to as guards. I am working them harder than I should. I would have liked to have won, but I don’t mind having (Saturday) off to get them to rest their legs.”
Russ said his team was lucky to get out with the win, as the Yellow Jackets missed 17 free throws in the fourth quarter — including a stretch of eight in a row. Russ said the basket got smaller and the shots became mental.
“Luckily, time ran out because you can’t miss 17 free throws in the fourth quarter and expect to beat good basketball teams,” Russ said. “Coaches can get in there and simulate all kinds of drills, but you cannot simulate game situation. We got in a situation where we could have iced it, but we missed eight straight and that basket became smaller and smaller.”
Russ said it’s too early in the season to really gauge where his team is, but he said playing the level of competition they have thus far is preparing them for a tough district season.
“You want to play good competition and try to figure out who can do what and try to figure out a way to win games,” Russ said. “We’ve played in two loaded tournaments and at times, we have come up short, but tonight, we came out victorious.”