In hindsight, Edna Karr was a speed bump.
Landry-Walker refused to collapse and charged to a 52-42 Class 4A quarterfinal win Friday at the Alario Center, again ousting the Cougars from the postseason.
District 10-4A rival Landry-Walker rolled over the Cougars 53-36 in a regional playoff game en route to a Class 4A State championship last season.
Friday offered Karr redemption. The No. 3 Cougars (24-9) topped No. 19 Franklin Parish, receiving an opportunity to reverse its playoff misfortune against the No. 6 Chargin’ Bucs (24-9) while simultaneously spoiling their rival’s title defense in the quarterfinals.
“I thought we played great defense the entire way. It’s a very tough matchup against Karr, because these are all neighborhood kids who know each others’ game, so it just came down to a battle of wills. And I think we willed our team to victory tonight, especially on the defensive end,” Bucs coach Brian Gibson said.
“We don’t change. We are man-to-man. We are an outside-in team. We’re going to shoot the ball and rebound. We knew we had to defend well to have a chance to win.”
Defensive anchors Blake Paul, Keytaon Thompson and Terrell Gilmore ensured that. The frontcourt trio protected the rim and the lane, swatting 11 shots and altering at least a dozen more attempts from the Cougars, who snatched the lead once.
“We’re a defensive-minded team,” Thompson said. “Our shots weren’t falling much throughout the game, but our defensive effort compensated.”
Especially in the second quarter. Though Landry-Walker converted one field goal in the period, it maintained the lead and entered halftime up a field goal.
“In the locker room, coach kept emphasizing tempo,” Lamont Berzat said. “We had to continue to push the ball up the floor. They had trouble defending against our players off the dribble and on the block, so he said keep pushing it and make them stop us.”
That’s when the gap widened. Landry-Walker peppered the Cougars with shots from everywhere on the court as the Bucs built a 37-25 lead on a 13-2 run.
“They’re so used to speeding their opponent up, but they ended up speeding themselves sup, rushing their shots and offense,” Gibson said. “So, they began turning the ball over, which led to easy baskets. Before you know it, we were up 13 points.”
Karr never recovered — much like the past two regular-season meetings in which the Bucs won.
Guard Vince Phillips poured in a team-high 14 points for the Cougars, who made their first appearance in the quarterfinals since winning the Class 3A championship in 2007.
Berzat dropped 14 points as well.
“This team is complete,” Gibson said. “Lamar (Peters) is clearly the best player in this area, but we also have a very strong presence down low, particularly on defense, so they were huge against Rae (Bush) who is an outstanding player.”