The Edna Karr boys basketball team has made it into the championship game of three tournaments this season.
All three ended with losses.
The Cougars (12-7) weren’t happy about those losses, but they knew a Sugar Bowl Classic title could make up for all of that.
They will have a chance to play for that title after a 54-53 win over Scotlandville to move on to the championship round at the Alerio Center Friday night, handing the Hornets only their second loss of the season.
“We weren’t happy about losing in those tournaments, but this is huge because it’s a national tournament,” said Karr guard Vincent Phillips, who finished with a team-high 19 points. “This was a good win for us. Now we just have to carry it over to Saturday.”
The Cougars move on to play Riverside in the tournament’s title game at 8 p.m. Saturday. Riverside defeated Landry-Walker on Friday and has made it to the championship game of the Sugar Bowl Prep Classic five times in its six-year existence.
One of those tournament losses came at the hands of Riverside in the Country Day tournament championship, and Karr hopes to put on a better showing then they did the first time around.
“We just want to stay within 20 points this time,” Karr coach Taurus Howard joked. “The last time we played them in a championship they shot the lights out, so we know we’re going to have to play good defense and make it a close game.”
Scotlandville guard Javonte Smart — ESPN.com’s No. 1 point guard in the nation for the Class of 2018 — didn’t score his first points of the game until the 3:24 mark of the third quarter, but once he got himself going offensively, the Hornets crept back into the game.
The sophomore’s free throw early in the fourth quarter gave him his ninth point of the game and Scotlandville a 41-40 advantage, the team’s first lead since scoring the first points of the game.
Karr worked its way back and took the lead once again with a layup from Phillips that made the score 48-47 and his free throws increased Karr’s lead 52-48 with 20 seconds remaining.
Jordan Adebutu scored on a layup to cut the Karr lead down to 54-53 with two seconds left, but the Hornets never got another opportunity to score in the end for the win.
Smart ended the game with 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
“We just let them determine the pace of the game in the first half,” Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said. “Once we started playing our style, it was just too late. You have to give them a lot of credit.”
Karr took control in the first half with its stingy defense, focused on limiting the scoring of Scotlandville’s explosive backcourt combination of Smart and Adebutu.
The Cougars utilized a 14-0 run that began in the first quarter and extended to the 4-minute mark of the second quarter before Diamante Woolridge’s free throw gave Karr a 27-11 lead.
Adebutu’s layup with 3:45 left in the second broke the Karr run and gave the senior his first points of the game. Smart was held scoreless in the first half, but the Hornets got things going and cut their deficit down to 31-22 at halftime.
“This is a big win for us for the power points,” Phillips said. “Our coach told us the key was to come in and limit Smart, and we just wanted to play hard and make them match our intensity.”