LAKE CHARLES — Lusher's student section gave their team a standing ovation as they left the floor for the final time of the season Tuesday night.
It wasn't quite the way Lusher hoped its first-ever trip to the Sugar Bowl/LHSAA boys basketball tournament would end.
But for three quarters, they showed they belonged on the same court with State Tournament regular St. Thomas More.
In the end though, the No. 4 Lions ran out of gas and fell to the top-seeded Cougars 51-38 in the Division II semifinals at Burton Coliseum.
"We were right there," Lusher coach Hunter Higgins said. "I don't think the moment was too big for our guys. We were very close. Unfortunately it wasn't close enough tonight."
Sophomore Cameron Williams scored 16 points to lead Lusher, which finished 22-11.
"I just played my hardest and tried to get to that game on Friday," Williams said.
Instead, it will be the Cougars playing Friday.
St. Thomas More (27-8) will play in Friday's 8 p.m. championship game against the winner of Tuesday's semifinal game between No. 2 U-High and No. 3 De La Salle.
Lusher senior Rylan Theyard finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists in a game the Lions were in for the first 24 minutes.
Then it changed.
Tied 29-29, St. Thomas More's Jaden Shelvin buried a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer to put the Cougars ahead 32-29 headed into the fourth.
"We never came back from that," said Higgins, the only coach the school has ever had.
St. Thomas More would never trail again after Shelvin's trey.
"We feel like if we keep it close, the fourth quarter is going to be ours," St. Thomas More coach Danny Broussard said. "Our guys know how to weather the storm."
Shelvin's shot ignited St. Thomas More, particularly William Kraemer.
Kraemer buried back-to-back 3-pointers from opposite corners to start the fourth and William Hebert's basket in the paint gave St. Thomas More a comfortable 40-29 cushion.
Lusher didn't score a field goal in the fourth quarter until Theyard scored with 1:57 left. Lusher was outscored 19-9 in the final quarter.
"Let's hand it to that Lusher team," Broussard said. "It's one of the best defensive teams we have played this year."
Early on, Lusher didn't look like a team making its first State Tournament appearance when the game started. The Lions raced out to a 7-0 start on for quick points from Williams and a 3-pointer by Ian Kirsch.
The Cougars, meanwhile, didn't score their first basket until the 3:30 mark of the quarter when Jonathan Cisse scored on a short jumper. It was the first of six unanswered points by Cisse, who finished with a game-high 20 points.
The Lions trailed 21-16 at halftime.
Kraemer scored 11 points and Jude Joseph scored 10 for the Cougars as they ended Lusher's best season.
"It's great for the school. It's great for these guys," Higgins said. "It's a big deal. It was a really big moment for our school."
Lusher returns five of its top six players next season, including starters Corey Madison, Nolan Hall, Myles Johnson and Williams.
"We are excited about the future for sure," Higgins said.