Nearly half of Karr’s basketball roster is continuing to practice before the Class 4A state football championship on Saturday afternoon.
So Thursday night, it was up to Karr’s other key components to hold down the fort.
Karr did just that, lighting it up from downtown early on and then leaning on its stingy defense late to defeat host Newman 61-51 in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Newman Invitational tournament on Thursday night at Fitzgerald-Skertich Arena.
Despite being a bit shorthanded, the Cougars (4-3) shot 60 percent from 3-point range in the first half and withstood numerous Newman rallies in the fourth quarter to secure the tournament win.
“It’s beneficial for us,” said Karr coach Taurus Howard, who arrived at halftime once Karr’s football practice came to an end.
“It gives some of our kids a lot of playing time and a lot of experience before the other kids come back. We did a good job on defense taking away the back-door cuts and spacing them out, then converting around the time.”
“We practice hard against our own team,” Vincent Phillips said. “We work hard against each other, so at game time, it isn’t really anything new.”
Karr’s explosive perimeter shooting translated into a 12-point halftime lead, which ballooned to 16 after Tyree Thompson drained the team’s 13th 3-pointer at the buzzer at the end of the third quarter.
However, the Greenies (6-4) saved their best for last.
Newman got within 10 points of Karr four times in the final quarter thanks to clutch baskets from Riley Demps (12 points, three assists) and Cass Lapeyre (15 points, five rebounds).
But for every Newman run, Karr had a response, and that often came compliments of Phillips and Thompson.
“It’s very important for us to get big shots,” Phillips said. “We lost to St. Aug because we didn’t get the ball. We want the ball in crunch time. We had to get our shots.”
Phillips scored a game-high 18 points and nabbed five rebounds. Thompson, a Northwestern State commitment, scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and had three steals. John Maxmillion added 10.
More important than the offense was Karr’s defense, particularly late in the game.
That was the key to the victory, Phillips said, and that will be a theme for the remainder of the season.
“We play defense the same time that we play offense,” he said. “We score a lot, but we’re a better defensive team. We got stops and that led to fast-break points in the second half.”