BRUSLY — It’s way too early in the crowded District 7-3A boys basketball race to declare a winner based on the merits of just one game. But Brusly proved the old cliché about defense winning championships still rings true.

The sixth-ranked Panthers held No. 5 St. James scoreless for 6 minutes, 35 seconds of the final eight-minute quarter. The net result was a 57-46 Brusly win over St. James on Tuesday night at BHS.

“The difference was our defense,” Brusly coach Harold Boudreaux said. “I think we took care of the basketball better, and I think we communicated. This is a good one to have, but there’s still a lot of district games left.”

Jay Christophe scored a game-high 15 points for Brusly (19-7, 5-2). Micah Spears (14) and Travin Thibodeaux (11) were also part of a balanced attack that included six assists by point guard Dimario Jackson. With the victory, Brusly and St. James become part of a multi-team tie for first in 7-3A.

“I didn’t think we were very aggressive on offense,” SJHS coach James Smith said. “Brusly deserves some credit for that. They played us tough like I knew they would in their home gym, and they hustled.

“When you’re No. 5 and they’re No. 6, you know you’re going to get their best shot. I think Brusly maybe wanted it a little more tonight.”

Houston Wiggins finished with 14 for St. James (18-5, 5-2), while Andre Mitchell contributed 11.

The teams traded baskets for most of the first quarter. Brusly led by as much as four points. Da’Kwan Sandolph’s 3-pointer from the right corner gave St. James a 14-12 lead at the 1:23 mark.

Christophe had 12 first-half points. He scored twice in the final 1:03 — first on a jumper near the free-throw line and again on a layup with 26 seconds left. Those buckets sent the Panthers into the second quarter with a 16-14 lead.

Brusly extended its lead to as much as five points three times in the second quarter. Christophe capped the quarter by driving the lane to score with four seconds left to give the Panthers a 30-25 halftime lead.

The Wildcats played without one key player, Jason Favorite, who left the game in the first half after being hit in the face.

As the third quarter progressed, SJHS battled back. Brusly held a steady four-point lead most of the way as Spears scored eight points in the period. St. James’ Mitchell scored on a layup and was fouled with 1:05 left. Mitchell’s free throw gave St. James a 41-40 lead.

But Spears countered with a turnaround jumper near the lane with 4.2 seconds left. That play sent Brusly into the final quarter with a 42-41 lead.

The teams traded baskets in the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter. After Mitchell hit a jumper from the left corner, St. James went cold. The Wildcats made just 2-of-8 shots from the field and also had seven turnovers in the final quarter.

Five Brusly players scored in the final period as the Panthers outscored the Wildcats 16-5 to put the game away.