Tyree Thompson had to sit out Karr’s last game against Country Day for disciplinary reasons.
That was all the motivation the senior guard needed on Monday night in Karr’s rematch against Country Day.
Thompson scored a team-high 17 points to lead the Cougars’ balanced attack in a 74-70 victory in the semifinals of the Country Day Classic.
“I had a big ol’ chip on my shoulder because last game I didn’t play,” Thompson said. “I told my team that last loss was on me. I just came out with a different mindset today.”
Karr (9-5) advanced to Tuesday night’s 8 p.m. final to play the Riverside-Scotlandville winner.
It was the first loss of the season for the Cajuns (8-1), who were looking to get to the finals of their own tournament for the first time since 2009.
Karr avenged its 66-57 loss from the Newman tournament.
In that game, Country Day’s dynamic backcourt of Michael Corchiani and Romin Williams combined for 50 points.
They were just as explosive in this one, combining for 48 — 27 by Corchiani, 21 by Williams. Christian Kerut scored 10 points.
But it wasn’t enough for the Cougars this time around. They had five players in double figures.
Dai’ Jean Dixon, who missed the first game because he was still with the football team, finished with 16 points.
“I have trust in all the players on the team,” said Thompson, a Northwestern State signee in baseball and basketball. “I know their strengths and weaknesses, so I try to put them in good situations.”
John Maximillion had 14, including four 3-pointers. Vincent Phillips chipped in 13, and Quindall Johnson had 10.
“That’s what we are pushing for,” Karr coach Taurus Howard said. “We want to be a balanced team. We have enough people who can score, and it makes it hard for the other teams to focus on one guy. When we get balanced scoring, we usually win ball games.”
It also helped that the Cougars shot 18 of 22 from the free throw line. The Cougars made their last seven over the final two minutes to stave off a Country Day comeback.
Karr built a 64-52 lead with five minutes left on a putback basket by Phillips, but the Cajuns stormed back.
Corchiani and Williams scored their team’s final 18 points. A three-point play by Williams with 3:10 left gave the Cajuns a 66-65 lead. But it wasn’t enough.
“They were real balanced and shared the ball beautifully,” Country Day coach Mike McGuire said. “That’s why they are one of the top 4A schools in the state. We aren’t disappointed that we lost to a quality team. I thought our effort was tremendous, and we didn’t give in when we were down 12. If you rebound and hit free throws, you have a chance. But give them credit, they were better tonight.”
Karr will play in the title game of the tournament for a second straight season after losing to U-High last season.
“This win gives our team some confidence,” Howard said. “When you beat a team like Country Day with multiple championships, it’s a big win.”