La Marque built big leads early in each half and survived a late-game Ball High rally to top the Tors, 73-70, on Wednesday in the latest chapter of the two teams’ rivalry.
“I’m happy because a win is a win, but at the end of the day, we still have room for improvement,” La Marque head coach Kevin Wilcox said.
The Cougars led by as much as 19 points in the third quarter, but the short-handed Tors battled through it to give themselves a chance to win it at the end in what was a wild finish.
“Each game, they’ve shown some improvement, and that’s what’s really important — we’re trying to grow the players,” Ball High head coach Jerald Temple said. “Obviously, the better each of those players are, the better our team is going to be. The process hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been good for us.”
La Marque still held a double-digit lead, 68-58, with less than 1:30 to play, but Ball High used quick, clutch shooting and free throws to claw back in the game. A 2-point bucket from Giovanni Janke and a pair of free throws from Kevin Shinette cut the deficit to six points, but La Marque answered with two made free throws by Willie Johns for a 70-62 lead with just 29 seconds left in the game.
Shinette took just 3 seconds off the clock in launching a long-range 3-pointer, and after two free throws from La Marque’s Eugene Campbell were answered by tough layup from Ball High’s Kenneth Crookshank, the Tors remained down by five, 72-67, with 8.9 seconds on the clock.
Just when it appeared Ball High wouldn’t have enough time to complete its rally, La Marque’s inbound pass was stolen and Shinette was fouled as he attempted a 3-pointer.
After Shinette made two of the three freebies, the Coogs threw away their inbound pass, and suddenly, the Tors had the ball with 8.1 seconds remaining and were one beyond-the-arc shot away from tying the game.
La Marque didn’t let that happen, though, committing a smart foul with 6.7 seconds left. Tre’Von Hamilton made one of two from the charity stripe, and after the Coogs got their inbound pass in, Ball High was forced to foul. Jordan Ivy-Curry made one of two free throws, keeping hope alive for Ball High, but the Coogs’ defense didn’t allow the Tors to get a potential game-tying shot off.
Both teams leaned heavily on their lone players with significant varsity experience. The young Cougars got a game-high 34 points from Ivy-Curry, while Shinette led the Tors (who were without four starters currently on the football team) with 24 points.
Anthony Williams led La Marque on the boards with eight rebounds to go along with four points, while Ball High’s Quinton Cooper logged a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds and also had two blocks.
Other standouts included Campbell with 12 points and six rebounds for La Marque, and Ball High freshman Trevon Turner, who chimed in with a double-double of his own with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
To start the game, La Marque raced out to a 10-0. A 3-pointer by Ivy-Curry gave the Cougars a 13-3 lead, but then La Marque cooled off and Ball High chipped away at the deficit, as the first quarter ended with the Coogs holding a 14-9 lead.
A 3-pointer by Tyler Polzin at the 5:30 mark of the second quarter got Ball High to within one point at 17-16, but La Marque responded with seven unanswered points before taking a 33-24 lead into the halftime break.
After a 3-point play the old-fashioned way from Cooper 53 seconds into the second half cut the score to 36-29 in favor of La Marque, the Coogs went on a 12-0 run — highlighted by a poster dunk by Ivy-Curry — to take their largest lead of the game at 48-29 at the 3:21 mark of the third quarter.
Ball High responded well out of a timeout, going on a 7-0 run to keep the game from getting out of hand.
“Overall, I’m proud of their efforts and fighting through adversity,” Temple said.
Up next, La Marque takes a road trip to Cleveland, Texas for a 7 p.m. game Tuesday, while Ball High remains at home 7 p.m. Tuesday against Houston Yates.