Catholic of Baton Rouge’s boys basketball team knows it might not be bigger or faster than its opponents on a night-to-night basis, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win.
The Bears (10-1) utilized their patented, methodical offense and pesky defense to take down De La Salle 72-59 in the first round of the Country Day Classic on Friday night, extending their winning streak to eight straight games.
Catholic moves to a second-round matchup at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against defending Class 5A champion Scotlandville, which beat South Plaquemines on Friday.
“We have to play to our advantage. We know we might not be as athletic as a lot of teams,” Bears senior forward Toliver Freeman said. “But if we play sound and discipline we know we can keep the game close and force them to execute against our defense.”
Freeman led the Bears with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Guard Jacoby Carter added 15 points.
“(Freeman) can go to the basket whenever we need it, but he’s really good at sharing with his teammates,” Catholic coach Mark Cascio said. “He’s done an excellent job of being patient and waiting for his opportunities.”
The teams exchanging the lead 10 times in the first quarter and-a-half of action. But the Bears opened their biggest lead of the half with an 8-0 run that was capped by an Ethan Treigle 3-pointer, which made it 28-21 with less than four minutes left in the second quarter.
Both teams stalled offensively and went without a field goal for a three-minute stretch, but Freeman’s 3-pointer right before the buzzer gave Catholic a 31-24 lead going into halftime.
“If I can pick one thing we’re doing really well right now, it would be guarding (opponents) in our man defense,” Cascio said. “We’re starting to get a little healthier, and you can see it because the guys are playing really hard.”
Catholic extended its lead in the third quarter by forcing De La Salle (8-4) into the slow-paced game that has helped the Bears hold opponents to 40.5 points per game.
The Bears’ lead grew to 50-35 by the end of the third quarter, and their stingy defense made things difficult on the Cavaliers for the entire second half.
De La Salle put together a 12-0 run late to cut the Catholic lead down to 60-54 with 3:27 remaining, but was unable to get any closer than six points.
Stephen Kelly led the Cavaliers with 13 points but only made three of his 12 shots on the night.
“All credit goes to Catholic High, but I don’t think we really came ready to play tonight,” De La Salle coach Paul Kelly said. “We couldn’t guard them, we couldn’t score against them, so I’ll just have to re-evaluate how I prepare my team.”