By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports
LAFAYETTE – Martin McDowell knew he and his Calvary Baptist teammates couldn’t get comfortable with a big lead Wednesday against Metairie Park Country Day in the semifinals of the LHSAA Division IV Boys’ Basketball Championships.
He was right. After Kameron Kennon scored five straight points to give Calvary a 17-point (41-24) lead in the third quarter, the Cajuns went on an 11-0 run to cut the Cavaliers’ lead to six.
“We know runs are going to be made,” said McDowell, a senior guard who led Calvary with a game-high 17 points to help the Cavs down Country Day in the Cajundome. “We just had to trust the work we have put in and not get down.”
After its 58-50 victory, No. 2 seed Calvary (23-9) will now meet top-seeded Southern Lab (16-3) in the championship game Saturday afternoon at 2 at the Cajundome. The Kittens edged No. 4 Hamilton Christian 61-60 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
As McDowell said, runs are going to be made. The first came late in the opening quarter. Down 5-3 after a cold start, Calvary coach Vic Morris called a timeout with just over two minutes left in the period.
“I told our guys to settle down,” Morris said. “I told them to just play our game.”
Good advice. The Cavs went on an 11-0 run to close out the quarter ahead 14-5. It was a lead that would last until a brief reversal in the final minutes of the game.
Outscored by just three points in the second quarter, the Cajuns closed the gap on the Calvary lead to finish the first half trailing 33-21.
McDowell, who finished the game 5-for-6 from 3-point range, thwarted the Cajuns’ late first-half rally by hitting two straight from long range in the last 20 seconds of the second quarter.
Country Day coach Mike McGuire knew the key to stopping Calvary was to contain the Cavs’ dynamic duo of McDowell and La’Bree Williams. And while the Cajuns succeeded in stopping Williams, who had just two points in the first half, they had their hands full with McDowell and the rest of the Cavs.
“We were playing hard early,” said McGuire, “but we just couldn’t capitalize. That No. 5 (McDowell) is a terrific shooter. And No. 24 (freshman Kolby Thomas) hit two big 3’s that hurt us. We didn’t count on them hitting those.”
Williams, the Cavs’ leading scorer this season, finished with just 8 points.
“It was pretty tough,” Williams said of the game. “I had a lot of adversity to face.”
While it wasn’t a typical performance from Williams, who averaged 21.3 points during the regular season, the 6-foot-6 senior forward made his impact in the decisive closing minutes of the game.
Calvary opened the fourth quarter with a 44-39 edge but saw that lead evaporate when the Cajuns went on a 7-0 run to go up 46-44 with 5:33 left. It was Country Day’s first lead since Calvary took the critical timeout late in the first quarter.
Williams, who was scoreless in the second quarter, came on strong in the final five minutes to score 6 of his 8 points. He also had four blocks in the game.
Just as they have done all season, the Cavs relied on their depth to pull them through despite one of their leaders having an off night. Just as Morris predicted, Calvary’s coach got strong performances across the board.
Kennon came off the bench to score 15 points, followed by Malaki Thomas with 12.
“Kolby stepped up for us,” Morris said of Kolby Thomas, the 5-9 freshman who came off the bench. “He gave us some big minutes.”
Country Day (18-12) was led by brothers Jordan Trahan (14 points) and Connor Trahan (11 points).
Photo by HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD