By Trent Friedel, exclusive to the Times
The Saint Mary’s boy’s basketball program has been heating up the hard wood as temperatures drop outside. They started the season with four wins in a row before going on a four game slide in the Tioga tournament. Each of those losses came against higher class teams, most notably a tough loss against 5-A Pineville 60 – 56.
Since the Tioga tournament, the men have been perfect in the win column. The streak currently stands at five games and I’m sure that they would want Santa to make it a run through district as being perfect. They had a solid victory over Stanley Dec. 11 and were on top in the Menard tournament against Glenmora and Buckeye. That led to the opening of district action at home on Dec. 17 against Block.
Let’s just say that any question of this being a competitive game was quickly quieted as the Tigers jumped on the Bear’s early. The seasoned group of starters lit up the score board and pulled ahead 28 – 7 with about 2 and a half minutes to go before the half time break. Thomas Howell has shown that he has really worked his game in the off season. His summer was filled with travel ball competition and it shows. Howell was already a legitimate threat in the low post and in the paint but he has worked his high post and perimeter game. He can easily handle the ball coming up the court and let me tell you; watch out when he and Parker Bankston are moving up the court in transition.
You might as well get ready for show time, as that transition will likely turn into a monster jam from the big man. Howell is definitely improved from last season and it’s hard to comprehend that the Tigers have him for another season.
The score would stand at 34 – 8 at the half. Saint Mary’s emerged from the locker room and continued to keep the lead as Block tried to dial up the heat with full court press and ball pressure on every inbounds play. The pressure only opened up quick transition points for the Tigers. Tony Arnold scored several times as he was the target of passes into the front court. Those long passes usually found him streaking to the basket for easy layups. Wholesale substitutions would enter the game for the Tigers in the third period with 2:30 showing on the clock and a 58 – 25 lead over the Bears.
Coach Collins is getting solid play from his bench and Damon LeGrande has been a welcome addition this season. The big man has been taking some pressure off Howell by grabbing rebounds and playing solid defense. The Tigers wrapped up a victory to open up district play with a 76 – 38 beat down of Block. They took to the road Thursday to continue district play at LaSalle. Saint Mary’s put a bow on the present that was the opening of district play. Coach Collins has all the ingredients to bake up a contender for a three-peat as district 3-1A champions. LaSalle was able to muster a meager 32 points against the Tigers but Saint Mary’s emerged on top.
The visiting Tigers posted 73 points in the victory. That’s back to back games with over 70 points for those of you keeping track. Saint Mary’s will take a break for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, but I assure you they will be practicing in earnest. They return to action Jan. 3 at home against Rapides. I encourage you to come out and support the Tigers and start your New Year with some hoop action. 2017-18 was a good year for the Tiger basketball squad as they reached the Division IV title game.
I think I can say that the members of this team have asked Santa for a stocking full of W’s for Christmas and have visions of post season play dancing in their heads. I wish you very Merry Christmas gentle reader and best wishes for a Happy and prosperous New Year.