Tara High School went from tentative to tremendous in the space of two quarters, stepping up on offense and defense to earn a 66-54 District 7-4A win over Lutcher on Friday night at Tara.
Early in the game, the visitors seemed more at home than their hosts as they ran out to a 23-14 lead, and appeared to have the game under control.
But the Trojans turned up the defensive pressure, found the range offensively and finally took their first lead of the night at 42-40 with two minutes to go in the third quarter.
“I’ve seen Tara play a couple of times this year, and we knew coming in it was going to be a tough game,” Lutcher coach Chase Delrie said. “They get great guard play, they’re well-coached, and we knew we’d have to play them tough for four quarters.
“The wheels kind of came off in the third quarter, and I think we kind of ran out of gas,” he said.
Once Tara (9-3, 1-0) took the lead, it played with a new confidence and outscored Lutcher (4-6, 0-1) 22-12 the rest of the way.
“We played a lot better in the second half,” Tara coach Larry Grantham said. “For four games now we’ve done that, come out sluggish in the first half, play a decent third quarter to keep it close, and then in the fourth quarter we turn it on.
“We slowed things down and took care of the ball in the second half. We played a little tougher man-to-man and got some really big rebounds.”
Shaquille Reed led the Trojans comeback with 10 third-quarter points, followed by Tyrain Davis with six and Josh Plain with four. Plain then made a 3-pointer for the first points of the fourth quarter.
Reed finished the game with 19, while Davis had 15 and Plain 11.
The Trojans had only four turnovers in the second half, and two of those came after they had built a 15-point lead at 62-47. Lutcher was able to come within 10 at 62-52, but that was as close as it would get.
Tyshon Jackson led the Bulldogs with 24 points, but Tara held him to seven in the second half after he dominated in the first half.
No other Bulldog scored in double figures. Tara got points from nine different players.
“I think when Tara came out and extended their defense, it kind of took us out of what we wanted to do, which is to pound the ball inside,” Delrie said.
Lionel Russel and Darrel Sparks were the key players inside for Tara on defense and on the boards.
Lutcher came out blazing, opening the game with a 23-point first quarter. Jackson led the Bulldogs with 14 points on two 3s and an assortment of drives and follow shots.
Jiarrus Payne came off the bench to contribute seven more as Lutcher mounted a 24-13 lead.
Tara came back in the second quarter to outscore Lutcher 12-10 to narrow the margin to 33-26 at halftime. With Jackson on the bench with two fouls, Davis and Reed scored five points each to spark the Trojans rally.