Helen Cox beat one of the best small school teams in the city Wednesday.
The best team in the country.
Roydell Brown and Marlain Veal combined for 35 points to lead Cox to a 62-57 victory over Country Day in the opening round of the AllState Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic at the Alario Center.
Cox will play Florida powerhouse Montverde Academy, led by the nation’s top senior in LSU signee Ben Simmons, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Cox coach Tyron Mouzon looks forward to the challenge.
“When Greg Monroe was here, we played some top teams and beat Lance Stephenson’s team,” Mouzon said. “It can be done. It’s an out-of-state team, so we can play loose. We accept the challenge and will play as hard as we can.”
The Cougars, ranked No. 4 in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10, improved to 16-2.
Brown, a junior forward, scored 18 points, and Veal, a senior guard, had 17 as Cox used a big third quarter to erase a 33-26 halftime deficit.
“We weren’t playing like we normally play on defense,” Brown said. “We saw that we were down and had to step it up and get to (Thursday.).”
Cox started pressing and forced several turnovers to start the third quarter and scored the first 11 points of the half.
“We felt we have more athletes, we are a little deeper and we felt we could tire them out,” Mouzon said. “They excel in the half- court offense. One of the things that gets us going is pressing and turning defense into offense in transition. That seems to motivate my guys more than anything else.
Country Day didn’t get its first basket of the third quarter until 3:14 remained when J.C. Younger hit a 3-pointer to cut the Cajuns’ deficit to 37-36. Younger then completed a three-point play to give Country Day a 42-41 lead with 1:30 left in the quarter.
But the 5-foot-9 Veal answered with a 3-pointer and a layup, and the Cougars never trailed again.
“If Marlain was 6-foot or more, he would be recruited by everybody in the country,” Mouzon said. “He is an amazing athlete. He can do almost anything for you. He is a tough defender and has a heart much bigger than his stature is.”
Veal knocked down two 3-pointers in the game.
Brown, meanwhile, did most of his damage from the inside.
“We thought we had a mismatch with Roydell inside,” Mouzon said. “We started getting him some feels inside, and he finishes around the basket really well.”
Younger had a game-high 22 points, including three 3-pointers, for the defending Class 1A champion Cajuns (6-7), ranked No. 8 in the Super 10. Walker Bright and Michael Corchiani had 12 points each and Romin Williams chipped in 11 points.
“We played a really talented team,” Country Day coach Mike McGuire said. “I thought they were less aggressive in the first half. When they turned it on, our guards didn’t handle the pressure well. It’s hard to win when you can’t handle the ball. But I like our character and toughness. We came back and made the thing close but didn’t finish.”
Country Day cut it to 53-49 midway through the fourth quarter and 60-57 in the final seconds but could get no closer.
Country Day will play in the consolation bracket Friday.
Cox, whose only losses have come against No. 3 Karr, plays its toughest test of the season Thursday.
Montverde features Simmons, a 6-foot-9 forward rated the No. 1 player in the Class of 2015 by ESPN, along with 7-foot-4 center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje and 7-foot Doral Moore.
“They are the No. 1 team in the nation,” Brown said. “It will motivate us to want to beat them so we can get noticed too.”
“If we beat them, that’s real big,” said Veal.