As St. Mary’s closed out the first half of District 3-1A play, its basketball teams had their toughest challenges to date.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers faced against two Northwood-Lena squads fresh off district championship wins and state tournament appearances.
Even though both teams lost Friday, coach Jake Bankston was impressed by his teams’ efforts.
The Tiger boys (10-10, 3-2 District 3-1) suffered a 59-47 defeat, but gave Northwood (17-6, 5-0) its best shot – staying close until the latter stages of the game.
“We made some big shots down the stretch and cut it to four, but we never got back into the swing of things after that,” Bankston said. “It’s tough. We’re still young. I have four sophomores starting, but we’re going to get there.”
St. Mary’s trailed 8-0 to start the game but weathered that storm and trailed only 10-8 at the end of the first.
The Tigers faced a 24-17 halftime deficit but remained behind by seven after three quarters with the sharp shooting of Jaydyn Jackson, who made two 3-pointers in the game.
The Gators regrouped as Omarion “Diddy” Layssard took over in the fourth quarter – scoring seven of his 19 points to give them the win.
Jackson, Ben Bienvenu and Mixon Bankston led the Tigers with 11 points, while Payne Williams made nine of his 10 free throws.
“I thought we competed well,” Bankston said. “I thought we guarded Diddy really well, he made some tough shots. He’s one of the best players in the state for sure.”
The Lady Tigers (9-12, 4-2) had a tougher time against Northwood (24-1, 5-0) – falling 54-18 in the early game.
St. Mary’s struggled in the first 20 minutes of the game as it mustered just three points and was behind 43-3.
However, the Lady Tigers continued to compete and performed better in the second half with Ava Errington leading the way with nine points.
Northwood junior Na’Kiyah Allen had a game-high 17 points to lead the Lady Gators.
“That’s the thing about this team, these players keep fighting,” Bankston said. “They’re second place in district and it’s hard to gauge based off how good Northwood’s girls are. They have the best team in the state in 1A by far. But we fought hard. We didn’t play our best player because she tweaked her ankle, but I was proud of the young girls.”
St. Mary’s hosts Block Tuesday.