The building was packed, the tensions were high and the defenses physical and swarming.
Everything that could be asked for in a state quarterfinals matchup between a pair of top 10 teams.
No. 1 Madison Prep boys basketball may have clinched its seventh consecutive trip to the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Marsh Madness tournament with what appeared, on paper at least, to be a commanding 52-34 win over No. 8 Brusly, but nothing about Friday night was easy.
The top-seeded juggernaut and the fierce underdog looking to dethrone them battled it out from the opening tip on the Charger’s home court.
Even as Madison Prep (24-6) extended its lead in every quarter, it wasn’t until the closing minutes that anything about the win felt secure.
That’s primarily due to Brusly (22-9) matching Madison Prep’s physicality on defense at just about every step.
Not even senior center Josh LeBlanc, a four-star Georgetown commitment, was his usual high-scoring self against the Panthers stingy defense. He was uncharacteristically limited to just nine points, but made up for it with 15 rebounds and 10 blocks to secure yet another double-double.
“It was real physical and a tough game, tough environment,” LeBlanc said. “But coach said at the beginning of the game that we’re going to have to play tough and we were going to have to win on defense. We had it on our mind. We were expecting that.”
What ultimately decided Brusly’s fate, though, was the rash of offensive turnovers that plagued the Panthers all night.
Thanks to LeBlanc down low and teammate Tyrese Walker and his eight steals, Brusly would go for long swaths of the game without hitting a shot.
Brusly struggled early on with the Madison Prep full-court press, hitting only 4 of 24 from the field in the first half.
The Panthers found a bit more success after halftime, shooting 9 of 28, but by then it was too late.
“There were a couple of times when I looked at the scoreboard and it was 12 and you figure if you get a stop you can cut it into single digits,” said Brusly coach Kirby Loupe. “Credit to (Madison Prep), every time we tried to make a run, they’d make a play.”
The biggest win of the night for the Chargers was to earn yet another trip to the state semifinals.
After seven years and spanning four different classifications, Walker called Wednesday night another step in the Madison Prep tradition.
Walker did his fair share against Brusly, leading all scorers with 13 points on a 4-of-8 clip from the field.
“It was a good game” Walker said. “Brusly had a good game plan against us. And then the crowd got into the game, also. It was a big, hostile environment and our players did a good job of holding it down.”