SIMSBORO – The Midland Rebels had No. 3 Simsboro on the ropes early Tuesday night in their Class B quarterfinal round matchup.
The Rebels streaked out to an early 11-point lead and nothing seemed impossible.
But when the Rebels needed to sustain their attack and deliver a knockout blow, they were unable to do so.
That wound up being the difference as the Tigers rallied back in the second half and went on a 14-5 run in the final three minutes to slip away with a 68-57 victory.
“For spurts, we played and we were tough tonight,” said Midland coach Todd Briley, whose team finished the season with a record of 29-8. “But you have to be able to sustain it. Our guys wanted to win and they played hard. But we didn’t sustain the effort.
“On almost every possession, we couldn’t allow any letdowns in order to beat these guys.”
Simsboro coach Lance Waldron, whose team returned every starter from last year’s state runnersup team, had nothing but praise for the Rebels following the victory.
“Midland is outstanding,” said Waldron, whose team improved to 27-7 and will take on Anacoco Saturday in the state semifinals in Shreveport. “They played with a lot of heart and they didn’t quit.
“They did a wonderful job. I think the difference in the game was the home court advantage. I wouldn’t want to play those guys on a neutral court or at their place because they were ready to play, they were well coached and they fought harder than anybody we’ve played against this year.”
The Rebels let the Tigers know early that they were in for a fight, jumping out to a 20-9 advantage in the first quarter behind four 3-pointers from junior guard Jake Gautreaux.
Gautreaux continued to pour it on in the second frame and scored seven points before the Tigers battled back to cut the lead to 30-25 at the break.
Dan Ogunyemi and A.J. Banks each hit a 3-pointer during the Tigers’ run and Xavier Ogunyemi poured in seven points in the paint.
“They (Simsboro) play kind of like we do,” said Briley. “You can’t really run an offense, you just have to play.
“We played hard every play and we were rebounding with those guys. But as the game went on, it wasn’t as often, it wasn’t every time and that was the difference.
“If we could have sustained the effort we gave in the first quarter, we would have won the game.”
The Tigers started the third quarter where they left off in the second and went on a 16-9 run to take a 41-39 advantage heading into the final quarter.
“We have been a second-half team all year and we have come to expect our guys to come out strong in the second half,” said Waldron. “We really turned it up a notch, but Midland just kept punching us in the mouth.”
Midland did just that to start the fourth quarter when Darren Arceneaux drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Rebels a 41-39 lead.
But the Tigers had an answer.
Marco Brown responded with a 3-pointer seconds later and then hit a layup with 4:51 remaining to spark a 10-0 run by the Tigers.
Still it wasn’t over.
Gautreaux and Alan Vondenstein combined for six straight points to cut the Tigers lead to 54-52 with two minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, that was as close as the Rebels would get.
The Tigers went on a 14-5 run in the final minutes to seal the victory.
In all, the Rebels went just 1-for-7 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. They also hit just eight of their 19 shots from the floor and had six key turnovers in the final eight minutes.
“It was just mental lapses,” said Briley. “It’s tough because we don’t have a deep bench and you’re asking a lot out of those kids. But it could have been done; we just needed to sustain it a little more. “
The loss closed out the careers of both Vondenstein and Stephen Primeaux, Midland’s only two seniors. Vondenstein logged 17 points and had six rebounds, two assists and three steals. Primeaux did not score, but he had one assist and two rebounds in the loss.
“They had no answer for Alan,” said Briley of Vondenstein. “The problem was that we just couldn’t get him the ball enough. When he got the ball, he hurt them.
“And Stephen really had a good game. He didn’t score, but he gave us some tough minutes.”
Gautreaux scored 19 points in the first half and finished with a team-high 21 points. Arceneaux added 14 points and Randy Primeaux had five.
Xavier Ogunyemi paced Simsboro with 19 points. Ron Abney and Brown each added 14 points, Zach Taylor had 10, Dan Ogonyemi had six, Banks contributed three and Clifton Williams had two.
“When you get to this point, if you want to win, you have to be able to sustain things,” said Briley. “These guys (Tigers) were so much more athletic than us; they had more depth than us, size, and quickness.
“But we had an opportunity.”