Helen Cox made its triumphant return to the Newman Invitational basketball tournament Wednesday, but the Cougars are almost nothing like last year’s team that won the tournament for the fourth time in school history.
The Cougars lost eight seniors from last season’s squad but rode the hot hand of returning star Roydell Brown to a 60-51 victory over Jesuit in the first round at Newman.
“We obviously just don’t have that experience and chemistry that last year’s team had,” Cox coach Tyron Mouzon said. “We’ve had some injuries early, so our record isn’t as good as it was last year, but we’re going to continue to pound the rock and take it a game at a time.”
Brown, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette signee, finished the game with 19 points, eights rebounds and five steals. Khalea Turner, who transferred to Cox (4-6) from Salmen, added 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
“It’s a very big (leadership) role for me this year, with so many young guys playing for us,” Brown said. “I push the guys, make sure they are where they’re supposed to be and just do whatever it takes to help us win games.”
Jesuit (2-5) kept things close in a mostly low-scoring third quarter, but Brown got himself going offensively, and the Blue Jays struggled to find an answer for the 6-foot-4 senior.
With the score tied at 36 and under a minute left in the third, Brown scored the Cougars’ final six points of the quarter to give his team a 42-38 lead.
Cox continued to push the pace into the fourth quarter, and it eventually wore down the Blue Jays. Cox’s 11-3 run to start the final period extended the team’s lead to 53-41 after a Turner layup. Jesuit was unable to get any closer than seven points the rest of the game.
“I think our full-court pressure started speeding them up and forcing them into bad shots,” Mouzon said. “They have good shot-makers, but our depth and athleticism seemed to wear them down a little bit at the end.”
Cox put Jesuit in an early 13-5 hole, but the Blue Jays turned to their ball movement offense to slow things down and ease their way back into the game.
From that point, Jesuit went on a 13-2 run that went into the second quarter and ended with Ross Talbot putting back his own miss to give the Blue Jays an 18-15 lead.
Brown quickly regained the lead for Cox by hitting back-to-back midrange jumpers, though, and the Cougars went into halftime with a 30-27 lead.
“It’s just going to take a little while for us, we’re playing a bunch of young guys,” Jesuit coach Chris Jennings said. “We have to play at a very high level and a very efficient level to compete, and we kind of stopped playing that way at the end.”
Jesuit, which lost seven seniors from last year’s team, was led by Rob Weiss, who finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.