After knocking Brother Martin out of the playoffs last season, West Jefferson knew it would be facing an inspired team when the two schools squared off again in this year’s playoffs.
The No. 6-seeded Buccaneers (18-10) took an early punch, but turned to its defense to close a 52-39 victory over the No. 27 Crusaders at home in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs Friday night.
West Jeff advances to play No. 11 Ouachita Parish at home next week, which beat No. 22 Slidell on Friday.
“It just put a fire in all of us that we had to beat them again,” said West Jeff senior forward Ray Anderson, who finished with a game-high 23 points and six rebounds.
“We fought, played hard on defense and that led to us getting the win.”
After going into halftime with a one-point deficit, the Buccaneers turned to their 2-3 zone defense to slow the Crusaders offense and take control of the game.
Brother Martin was unable to deal with the length and activity of the Buccaneers defense and was outscored 27-13 in the second half.
The Crusaders tried to make a late push and cut their deficit to 41-35 late in the fourth, but Anderson threw down two monstrous dunks in the final minutes that brought the home crowd to its feet and put the finishing touches on the victory.
“We struggled a little bit with putting our foot on their neck,” West Jeff coach Brian Simmons said. “Once we started getting stops, it put a fire under our guys and started leading to us getting easy shots on the other end.”
Brother Martin fell behind early after turning the ball over eight times in the first quarter, but once it settled in and started filtering its offense through forward Irv Smith, the momentum began to shift to the Crusaders.
The Alabama football signee scored or assisted on 14 of the Crusaders’ 16 points in the second period and his runner late in the quarter gave the Crusaders their first lead since the beginning of the game and helped them take a 26-25 lead into halftime.
Smith finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter, but the Crusaders struggles with turnovers (18) and free throws (10-of-20) were too much to overcome in the end.
“All of that stuff adds up on you after a while,” Brother Martin coach Chris Biehl said. “We’re a pound the ball on the inside type of team, and they took that away from us. All the credit goes to them.”