SCOTT — The difference in the second and third quarters between Acadiana and New Iberia high schools on Tuesday was a matter of intensity.
But New Iberia coach Todd Russ said he wasn’t surprised to see his team’s 13-point halftime lead evaporate when Acadiana outscored the Yellow Jackets 22-9 in the third quarter to tie the game in an eventual 63-58 NISH win.
“I knew they weren’t going to lay down, and, even to the last minute, they weren’t going anywhere,” Russ said. “We expected a good ball club to play well on their home floor and they did. The reason we didn’t panic is because we have been in these situations before. We got exactly what we thought we would get from them and we just had to find a way.”
The Yellow Jackets (21-9, 10-1 in District 3-5A) got 16 points from Tyler Derouen, including four big 3-pointers. Russ said he never knows where the scoring will come from, but Tuesday, Derouen led the charge as NISH closed out its first outright district championship in 17 years.
Acadiana fell to 14-12, 7-4.
“You always want to say it and that’s our goal, but no way did I see a district championship at the beginning of the season,” Russ said. “Even the guys in the locker room, you know, you don’t start to see it come to fruition until it comes together. Those guys work so hard in practice and we just keep grinding.”
Acadiana coach Nic Jeffers commended NISH for an intense first half where the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 13-point halftime advantage. Jeffers said if they had played the first half like the second half, it may have been a different outcome.
“Give all credit to Todd Russ and his squad,” Jeffers said. “They were firing on all cylinders in that first half and they were a very scary team. They knocked down some timely shots.
“We have a bunch of fighters in our locker room. We aren’t just gong to lay down. Down 13 at half, we had every opportunity to lay down, but we came out fighting. We feed off momentum just like any other team.”
Jeffers said he felt like they got enough defensive stops, but not enough offense.
“Down the stretch, we were down five and had back-to-back turnovers, then came down and missed the front end of a one-and-one,” Jeffers said. “We had really fought and clawed our way back in and had some unfortunate situations.”
The district championship assures NISH a berth in the playoffs, something it did not earn last year. Russ said he isn’t paying too much attention to the power ratings and whether or not they have a home game doesn’t really matter.
“I cant figure it out so I am not going to try,” Russ said. “Wherever we go, we are just going to get there and feel blessed we are there because last year we were at home. We’re just happy to be invited to the party and wherever we have to go party, we’ll go party.”