LAFAYETTE — His team’s ways might give him a few gray hairs, but Teurlings coach Jake Dueitt wouldn’t have it any other way.
Dueitt watched his team claw its way to another comeback victory Tuesday night, beating District 5-4A rival St. Thomas More 36-35.
The Rebels (17-8, 4-1) gave their coach and fans a couple of scares along the way, but Dueitt said that is just what his team does best.
“This is what we deal with every day,” Dueitt said. “It’s a very loose group, and that’s how they play. Nothing phases them.”
Teurlings had a chance to extend a one-point lead with 11 seconds left and junior center Cole Kelley at the free-throw line, but Kelley missed both free throws, leaving the door open for Cougars (15-7, 3-1).
During the ensuing timeout, Dueitt had a message for his team.
“We’ve been in three ballgames like this already where we were either up by one or down by one at the end,” Dueitt said. “So I told them tonight, playing in front of a packed house, your friends, your family let’s give them something. If we can’t get it in our own gym, shame on us.”
The Rebels won the low-scoring battle thanks to some tough defense down low by Kelley.
Kelley, normally the Rebels offensive star, was shut down by the Cougars, only scoring six points, while struggling from behind the 3-point arc.
St. Thomas More coach Danny Broussard said before the game he didn’t want to let Kelley beat them single-handedly on the offensive end, game planning around the versatile 6-foot-7 center’s game.
“We did a really good job on (Kelley). I’m not sure what he had, but he sure didn’t beat us on the end,” Broussard said.
Rather than beating the Cougars with his offense, Kelley proved his worth on the other end, battling for rebounds and stopping shots at the rim on a night where the Cougars couldn’t get it going from behind the 3-point arc.
Dueitt said the team usually laughs at how slow Kelley gets back on defense when they watch game film but was impressed with how he stepped up when the Rebels needed him.
“He was a beast on the boards, and in the middle and you have to have that from your center on a night like this,” Dueitt said. “They got some good looks, but when you have a 6-foot-7 guy in there contesting it’s not easy.”
The win was especially special for Kelley, who grew up with two brothers who attended St. Thomas More and thinking he would follow their lead for most of his childhood.
“This means so much for our team, but it is a little more special for me to win this,” Kelley said. “This program is just getting better and better every year, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Broussard said the Cougars this year don’t have the same type of consistent outside shooting that his team’s have had in the past, making it difficult to score on nights when the shots aren’t falling.
The Rebels shut down Cougars forward Peter Kishbaugh after the first half, holding him to only two points.
Broussard said the Rebels switched to a matchup zone, with a player following Kishbaugh around the court while the rest of the team sat in zone.
“He had some good looks; they just wouldn’t fall tonight,” Broussard said. “That’s basketball sometimes.
Teurlings senior Grant Lagrange picked up the slack on the offense, scoring eight straight points at one point in the second quarter to tie the game, sinking three shots from 3-point range on his way to a team-high 13 points.
Kelley said it shows how good the Rebels can be, when even on a night where he struggled from the field other players can power them to victory against tough opponents.
“(The win) is huge. I mean what else can you say the place was packed. They came to see a great game and they got one,” Dueitt said.
“We’ve heard for 30 years that we don’t beat these guys and half the people who were in here didn’t believe we could beat them. But our guys always believe that we can win and I’m just happy we could finish this one out.”