Country Day basketball coach Mike McGuire doesn’t mind climbing a few mountains during the regular season in order for his team to reach Class 1A’s summit in the postseason.
The Cajuns, with four games against Class 4A-5A competition to their credit, added another upper-level challenge Saturday with several more on the horizon.
J.C. Younger scored a game-high 20 points, and Country Day went 11 of 13 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 61-55 victory over Class 5A McKinley in the Hall of Fame Classic at Baton Rouge Community College.
“We do this every year,” said McGuire, whose team will still face Karr, Riverside and John Curtis. “We sprinkle in really good games throughout the year to keep us sharp. This was a playoff atmosphere. This is why we came to this.”
Karr, which meets Country Day on Monday, got off to a slow start and played from behind the entire way until a last-gasp effort fell short in a 75-70 setback against Port Allen.
“We knew they were a good shooting team,” Karr coach Taurus Howard said. “There were times when we had a hand in their face. We didn’t do a good job on the boards, and that’s what really killed us. We gave up too many second-chance points.”
COUNTRY DAY 61, McKINLEY 55: Reserve Trey Harrell scored consecutive baskets during a 10-2 run that gave Country Day (14-4) its largest lead of the game at 48-39 with 5:19 remaining.
McKinley (14-11) narrowed the gap to 50-45 two minutes later when Keion Brown scored inside and Tyrese Radfod made a pair of free throws.
The margin remained five points when Cajuns’ proficiency at the free-throw line kicked in with guard Romin Williams making 3-of-4 attempts, Younger taking care of four straight attempts and Michael Corchiani adding two more.
Williams and Corchiani scored nine apiece.
“We had some good interior passing and that was the difference,” McGuire said. “We were able to break them down and score. In the first half, we missed some of those. We either rushed some of them, or they blocked some of them.”
Country Day, which shot 52 percent in the opening half, worked itself out of a 23-18 deficit midway through the second quarter, grabbing a 28-25 halftime lead with Walker Bright scoring six points during a 10-2 run that closed the half.
PORT ALLEN 75, KARR 70: Howard didn’t want to place any blame on his team’s slow start on the result of Fridays’s 70-59 double-overtime loss to Walker-Landry.
“That would be an excuse,” he said. “This game was on the schedule. You have to be ready to play every game.”
Port Allen (18-4) shot 68 percent in the first half to build a 48-41 halftime lead.
The Pelicans had four players score in double figures with 6-foot-8 Northwestern State signee Ishmael Lane leading the way with 21 points.
Port Allen raced out to a 34-22 lead at the 6-minute mark of the second quarter and wound up with a 48-41 lead at halftime.
Karr (17-7) climbed back into contention with its full-court pressure, getting to within 67-66 with 2:39 remaining on Vincent Phillips’ layin after a turnover.
Port Allen answered with six straight points, extending its lead to 73-66 with 53 seconds left.
Phillips led the Cougars with 14 points, followed by Diamante Woolridge with 13, Kevin Smith 12 and Devin Edinburgh 10.