The talk around Helen Cox all season has been how this year’s team has been they’re best since the departure of former star forward Greg Monroe.
With the Detroit Pistons big man watching in the stands, the second-seeded Cougars (29-4) blew by 15th-seeded Mandeville with an 80-59 victory at John Ehret on Tuesday to put Cox in the quarterfinals for the first time since Monroe graduated in 2008.
“It’s great for him to come back and support us,” Cox senior point guard Marlain Veal said. “He got some equipment for us this year and came to the back and talked to us before the game, which was big for us.
“He just told us to keep grinding and keep winning.”
Roydell Brown led the charge for Cox with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and added 11 rebounds and three steals. Veal added 22 points and three assists, and Jeremy Treaudo scored 19 points, including 15 in the first half.
Cox will play C.E. Byrd in the quarterfinals Friday.
“Our team has a high motor, and all we want to do is run,” Brown said. “We always play good defense, we always pressure teams, and that let’s us push the ball and play high-tempo games.”
Both teams came out smoking in a back-and-forth first period that saw the two combine for 41 total points. Neither team maintained the momentum for any sustained period until Brown muscled in a three-point play at the end of the quarter to grab a 23-18 lead.
The junior continued his scoring outburst with two layups to open the second quarter that were a catalyst for a 10-2 run that swung the tide to the Cougars.
Shooting 62 percent from the field in the first half, Cox maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way and took a 45-31 advantage into halftime.
“We’ve got nine or 10 guys that can play,” said Helen Cox coach Tyron Mouzon. “I don’t think they were that deep, so we feel like a lot of the teams we play, we can wear them down with our pace. If you don’t have a deep bench, we can make it tough on you.”
Cox’s patented up-and-down pace seemed to wear down the Skippers (23-10) and helped take hold as the game wore on. While the Skippers stayed close with Cox early, they were outscored 35-27 in the second half.
“It’s hard to match up with them athletically,” Mandeville coach Paul Paille said. “They get every loose ball, they get every rebound. To beat them, you’ve got to play a perfect game. You’ve got to hit open shots when you’ve got them. They are just hard to deal with.”
While Mandeville guard Torico Jones played the part of hero in the Skippers’ bidistrict round win over Jesuit last week with his last-second 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime, the Cougars didn’t allow the sharpshooter to find his groove Tuesday.
After a 22-point performance in last week’s victory, Cox held Jones to four points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field.
Hunter Dugas carried the Skippers, scoring 27 of the team’s 59 points, while making 10 of his 22 shots from the field.
“I knew he was a guy that normally doesn’t score, but he had a big game for them last week,” Mouzon said of Jones. “We just told our guys to stick to their principles and pressure the ball.
“We knew if we played that way we could force them into mistakes.”