LAFAYETTE — In a battle for sole possession of the lead in a tight District 4-5A race, St. Martinville scored a big victory Friday night, defeating St. Thomas More 59-52.

The Tigers (20-7, 7-1) kept their composure down the stretch of a tight game on the road for the second straight time, hitting their free throws down the stretch and not allowing the Cougars (19-8, 6-2) to take the lead.

By contrast, the Cougars missed some key free throws.

With 2:14 left, Keitha Bonhomme missed the front end of a one-and-one, but senior guard Drapper Anthony secured the offensive rebound to give the Tigers an extra possession.

St. Thomas More coach Danny Broussard said the offensive rebound was the crucial point in the game, sinking the Cougars chances for victory.

“We just didn’t block out, and at that point it was a two-point game,” Broussard said. “We had a lot of momentum going at the time, and it kind of took the wind out of our sails.”

Anthony put in another solid performance for the Tigers, scoring 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including perfect 3-for-3 on free throws.

More importantly to St. Martinville coach Darrel Mitchell, though, Anthony avoided turnovers and played smart basketball in front of a raucous road crowd. Anthony finished with three assists and only one turnover.

“You’ve got to be able to do that,” St. Martinville coach Darrel Mitchell said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be; your point guard is supposed to be able to handle that. Settle everybody else down and deliver, and he did that.”

The Tigers established their lead in the second quarter, opening the period with an 8-0 run and outscoring the Cougars 13-5 for the quarter.

Broussard said the game turned into a game of runs, and St. Martinville responded at every Cougars challenge.

The biggest test for the Tigers came in the third quarter, when Cougars guard Trevor Begue scored seven straight points to tie the game.

Begue finished with 16 points and five steals to lead the Cougars in both categories.

“He made some big plays, big steals and got to the bucket,” Broussard said. “He brought us back and then he twisted his ankle a little bit and I thought that slowed him down.”

Broussard said the Tigers aggressive man-to-man defense was excellent throughout and forced the Cougars into uncharacteristic turnovers and bad shots.

Junior center Jevante Walker anchored the Tigers defense, discouraging STM from driving into the lane by swatting two shots and altering several others.

“If they penetrate, his only job is to swat anything that comes his way,” Mitchell said. “We kept yelling at him to stay in the paint, knowing that if they happened to get penetration we needed him there.”

Walker added 10 points and 10 rebounds. He finished 6-for-8 from the free-throw line, including four in the fourth quarter to help ice the game.

With a crucial matchup with Teurlings Catholic (21-7, 6-1) coming Tuesday to stay on top of the district standings, Mitchell said his team would take things one game at a time.

“If we win out, we don’t have to worry about anything else,” Mitchell said. “So we just need to take care of our business and we’ll be fine.