No. 13-seeded St. Thomas More capitalized on its tough defense and the cold shooting of No. 20 Warren Easton to take a 49-34 Class 4A bidistrict victory.
Senior guard Kevin Hicks, Warren Easton’s offense leader throughout the year, finished with 18 points on 5-for-13 shooting, including going 4-for-8 from the 3-point line.
But St. Thomas More keyed in on the hot-shooting guard throughout the night and limited his touches. Using a box-and-one defense to double Hicks, the Cougars disrupted the Eagles offensive flow.
Warren Easton coach Neil McKendall said the Cougars were aggressive defendingHicks, and other players couldn’t step up despite Hicks receiving most of the attention.
“We’ve been seeing it all year long, I’ve known (STM coach Danny) Broussard since 1985, and we knew he was going to do something to make sure (Hicks) wouldn’t beat them tonight,” McKendall said. “The open guys just didn’t finish. We told them before the game that they would need to step up and they just didn’t.”
The Eagles shot 26 percent from the field and 25 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
Broussard said the Cougars coaching staff saw on videotape of White’s ability as a shooter and didn’t want to give him the opportunity to get going.
Using one man to shadow Hicks around the court — junior Trevor Begue, senior Deuce Wallace and junior Devante Benjamin all took turns — the Cougars frustrated Hicks on the perimeter.
The wing players part of the zone defense then jumped out on Hicks as he curled around the screen, never giving him the opportunity to get a clean look.
“They are patient with Kevin. We saw it on film they are very patient when they try to get him open,” Broussard said. “We frustrated them a little bit. Our defensive game plan was really key. I think we took away their strengths, we took away (Hicks).”
The final part of the Cougars defensive game plan relied on junior center Will Vincent who anchored the zone in the paint, blocking six shots and finishing with 11 rebounds. Vincent chipped in 11 points, coming up four blocks short of a triple double.
Broussard said they focused this week in practice on getting Vincent’s drop step to work correctly to help out his offensive game.
“We told Will to wait for anyone to penetrate into the middle and just change their shot,” Broussard said.
“He’s been doing fade-aways and kind of going away from the basket, so we’ve been telling him no one has been able to stop you when you go to the basket this season.”
McKendall said he was disappointed in his senior big man Juwan James, who had two travelling violations in the first half and never got his offensive game going.
“My big guy, who normally scores inside, I don’t know what he was thinking,” McKendall said. “I guess it was jitters. I don’t know what to make of it.”
Even though the Cougars failed to break 50 against the Eagles lanky defense, Broussard said he was pleased with his team’s offensive effort.
The Cougars leading scorer Peter Kishbaugh had an off night, shooting 3-for-10 from the floor and scoring only eight points, but the Cougars got big offensive contributions from Benjamin and freshman guard Jonathon Cisse who combined for 23 points.
“We had a hard time scoring against them, but I’m really pleased with our offense. It wasn’t great, but we were able to score some baskets against a pretty solid defense,” Broussard said.
“We wanted to get Devante into the high post and try to attack the rim. I thought him and Cisse did a great job of getting to the rim.”
Broussard was especially pleased with Cisse, who has been an off-an-on contributor for the Cougars this season.
“He’s been big off and on all night. He’s had some games where he didn’t quite have it, but he’s played in a lot of big games for us. He’s very poised for a freshman,” Broussard said.
The Cougars move on to face the winner of No. 4 Plaquemine-No. 29 Morgan City in the regional round.