ZACHARY — Zachary displayed remarkable resiliency even before its season tipped off.
The Broncos were forced to switch gears, transitioning to assistant Jon McClinton who was elevated to the team’s head coaching position when veteran coach Kenny Almond announced his retirement.
“It hasn’t been easy, but it’s gone well,” McClinton said. “We tweaked a couple of things, trying to play a little harder defensively. Everything else we’ve tried to keep as simple and the same as possible.”
When The Dunham School tried to cut into a first-half deficit and got within a point with just more than two minutes left in the third quarter, Zachary responded with some of its best minutes of the game to pull away for a 62-48 home victory Tuesday.
“We didn’t start the game the way we were supposed to start it,” Dunham coach Jonathan Pixley said. “We were constantly clawing our way back in. Right when we got to the point and felt we were going to get over the hump, they would make a play.”
Zachary (9-4) prepped for Saturday’s East Baton Rouge tournament appearance against Broadmoor, outscoring Dunham 26-16 in the final quarter to win for the eighth time in its past 10 games.
The outside shooting of Austin Veal played a key role. He made two of his four 3-pointers to catapult Zachary, and Demoine Bowie scored all eight of his points in a 1½-minute stretch of the fourth quarter, extending the Broncos’ lead to 56-42.
Veal’s 18 points led Zachary, which shot 62 percent in the final quarter and 46 percent for the game. Calvin Adams added 11 points for Zachary.
Dunham (10-4) had its four-game win streak snapped after shooting 36 percent from the field and was 4 of 15 from 3-point range, including 0-of-8 in the second half.
Forward Jordan Wright led the Tigers with 14 points.
“Zachary played very well, made some open 3s and crashed the offensive glass,” Pixley said. “They played tough, hard-nosed defense when they needed to, and we just didn’t play a whole 32 minutes.”
Zachary trailed for less than two minutes with Veal’s 3-pointer giving his team the lead for good.
The two teams exchanged 7-0 runs over the final four minutes of the second quarter with Zachary leading 23-13 after Marjon McClinton’s two free throws.
Wright scored four points, including a runner in the lane, to reduce Zachary’s lead to 23-20 with 2:44 remaining.
Consecutive 3-pointers from guard Ben Bernhard brought the Tigers within 27-26 with 1:01 to play when Braylon Jones scored in the lane, and Veal add a putback at the buzzer.
Dunham closed to 31-30 on Myers’ reverse layup off an offensive rebound with 2:12 to go in the third quarter, but a 3-pointer from Veal sparked a 7-0 run that included a putback from McClinton and a drive from Adams.
“There’s a lot of great teams in EBR tournament,” coach McClinton said. “We’re trying to play well going into that point and then going into district as well.”