LAKE CHARLES — Top-seeded Madison Prep has a reputation for scoring points. The Chargers have scored 90 or more points 14 times this season.
But it was suffocating defense that set the tone for Madison Prep’s 47-32 victory over Country Day in the Class 1A semifinal that opened Wednesday’s action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 tournament.
“They couldn’t get in a rip and run thing with us, so using their offense as a stall was smart,” Madison Prep coach Jeff Jones said. “When you hold a team to 27.9 percent shooting and then make 69 percent yourself that’s a strong statement.”
With the victory, Madison Prep (34-1) advances to play the Lafayette Christian-Arcadia winner in Saturday’s Class 1A title game set for 2 p.m. at Burton Coliseum.
Seniors Brandon Sampson and Christion Thompson teamed with freshman Joshua LeBlanc to lead the Chargers, who have not lost to a Louisiana opponent in 2014-15.
Sampson finished with 13 points, making 6 of 9 shots. Instead of settling for pull-up jumpers, the St. John’s signee was aggressive in transition and in slashing through the lane for easy shots.
The 6-foot-6 LeBlanc also had 13 points and four blocked shots. He was at the heart of the defense, altering Country Day shots all afternoon long.
“Coach (Jones) told me before the game to not go up with the shot,” LeBlanc said. “He said to anticipate and go up to where the ball is going to be. That’s what I tried to do.”
Thompson added 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Josh Anderson had six points and five assists, helping MPA advance to a title game for the third straight time in its five-year basketball history. The Chargers were the Class B state title in 2013 and lost to Country Day in last year’s 1A final.
Michael Corchiani led Country Day (22-8) with 13 points. J.C. Young had 11 for the Cajuns, who won the 1A title the last two seasons. The Cajuns fell behind by double digits but cut the lead to six, at 38-32, on a 3-pointer by Younger with 2:13 left.
Madison Prep didn’t blink. The Chargers made nine free throws down the stretch, scoring the final nine points.
“We knew if we could keep it in single digits late in the game we’d have chance,” Country Day coach Mike McGuire said. “And we really did. We missed a couple of floaters. No. 23 (LeBlanc) was outstanding.
“He must have had six blocks. He was the defensive player of the game in my opinion. He really made it tough for us underneath.
“We missed some kick outs and shots we normally make. It’s tough to do everything right when you’re playing a team that talented.”
The final play of the first half was indicative of what Country Day faced when trying to score on a taller Madison Prep team. The Cajuns’ top scorer, Younger, rose up to launch a 3-pointer between three Charger defenders.
When the shot missed its mark it was rebounded by the Cajuns, but the attempted putback was batted out of bounds by Madison Prep’s LeBlanc.
Yes, Country Day got the slower paced game it wanted. However, the Cajuns made just 2 of 14 first-half shots. Madison Prep was 7 of 12 from the field and led 16-7.
Madison Prep’s Jones said his team’s goal defensively was to make Young, Corchiani and Romin Williams work for every shot and it paid off. Younger was 4-for-15, while Williams finished 2-for-12.
In turn, the Chargers made a sizzling 18 of 26 shots from the field, including 11 of 14 in the second half to go along with 9 of 12 free throw shooting.
Madison Prep led by as much as 13 points in the third quarter. A 3-pointer by Younger cut it to 26-19 going into the final quarter.
“When the game was getting tight the biggest focus was not turning on each other and just playing as a team,” MPA’s Sampson said.
“We knew at some time in the game it would come to free throws and we knew we had to make them. We just didn’t panic.”