Country Day came into their annual Christmas Classic with a bit of added fuel. The Cajuns have a proud tradition in basketball, but have never taken home the championship.
“We know this tournament is stacked and our kids know it,” Cajuns coach Mike McGuire said. “It is up to our kids to go and get it.”
Country Day took another step towards that goal, defeating St. Paul's 66-47 to advance to the next round in the Country Day Classic.
Justin Ibieta led all scorers with 14 points, scoring every time he was called upon. Ibieta doubles as the Cajuns’ starting quarterback in football, using that innate ability to be clutch, he buried all six of his free throws.
Troy Vosbein added a pair of 3-pointers with 5:24 left in the game to stretch Country Day’s lead to 57-28.
St. Paul’s trailed the entire game, despite the efforts of Colin Quinlan. Quinlan became the bright spot for the Wolves, turning in eight points in the fourth quarter to cut into the lead 60-45. But it would prove to be too little too late.
Kaleb Jenkins and Clinton Nicholas turned an impressive offensive showing, combining for 16 points. However, it was their defensive prowess that allowed the Cajuns to pull away for good.
“We knew we had to step our game up defensively if we wanted to stay ahead,” Jenkins said. “The talent is all around us, but we just have to continue to play our game.”
The Cajuns exploded out of halftime to make a 20-4 run. Shawn Royal led the way, draining back-to-back field goals with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Royal led all scorers at halftime with seven points. His clutch shooting and rebounding afforded the Cajuns a 32-20 halftime lead. Royal would go on to add seven rebounds and finish his night with nine points.
The Wolves were not able to figure out how to sustain any offense in the opening 12 minutes, but did receive a boost off the bench from Parker Edwards. Edwards scored back-to-back buckets in the second quarter to help chip away at the lead 20-13.
Country day led 17-7 after one quarter of play, thanks largely in part to the smothering full court pressure being applied by the Cajuns. St. Paul's found themselves down by as many as 12 during the waning seconds of the first quarter.
Chandler Owenby contributed 8 points for St. Paul’s, while Christian Becnel added another six points for Country Day.
The Cajuns will face the winner of McDonogh #35 and Baton Rouge Catholic on Friday evening at 7pm.