Briley: Easier beating size than speed

LAFAYETTE - Todd Briley had seen the Rapides Mustangs before, mainly on tape, only once in person.

But none of that could have prepared Briley or his Midland Rebels for what they saw Friday when they finally took on the Mustangs for the Class B state championship at the Cajundome.

When all was said and done, the Rebels’ hopes for their first state title since 1977 were shattered.

Final score: Rapides 83, Midland 61.

“I think they were better than Zwolle,” said a spent Briley, who’s team had defeated 12-time state champion Zwolle, 79-78, in overtime Tuesday to earn a shot at No. 1-seeded Rapides.

“They (Rapides) were not as big as Zwolle and I think people kinda thought that because they were not as big as Zwolle (which had players 6-8 and 6-4) that we oughta be able to handle them.

“But it’s much easier beating size than speed.”

That was painfully evident Friday.

On a night so filled with optimism, the lightning-quick Mustangs pressured the Rebels like no other team had,in the 2009-10 season, forcing them into 37.3 percent shooting from the floor, including just 18.8 percent on 3-pointers.

In contrast, the Rebels shot a blistering 61 percent from 3-point range and 50 percent overall in their victory over Zwolle three nights earlier.

“They (Rapides) were just so fast,” said Briley. “ They cross over, they have ball-handling, they change direction..... Trying to keep those guys in front of us was just tough.”

Friday, it was nearly impossible especiallyafter the Mustangs managed to break open a tight game in the second quarter.

That’s when Briley began to worry.

Up until the Mustangs’ second-quarter surge - which began two minutes into the period- the Rebels had held their own and even held.

Then things went South for the Rebels, who themselves were partially to blame.

“We started shooting too quick and taking bad shots in the second quarter,” said Briley, whose team’s offensive rhythm was thrown out of sync by the cat-quick, in-your-face defense of the Mustangs.

When that happened, the Rebels watched their 25-20 lead quickly slip away. A 12-0 run gave Rapides a 32-25 lead at the 3:46 mark of the second quarter and by the half, the Rebels found themselves down 38-30.

A 10-0 run to start the second half enabled the Mustangs to build their lead to 48-30 and by the end of the quarter, the Mustangs led by 25, 65-40.

For all practical purposes, the game was over.

“We let them score to start the second half and that really worried me,” said Briley. “We needed a few stops and we needed to cut into that lead early. But we didn’t do that.”

The bottom line, said Briley, was that the Rebels were unable to do the things they needed to do to win. And much of that had to do with the speed and quickness of the Mustangs.

“Coming into the game, our game plan was to stop transistion, not let them got on the boards and try and protect the basketball,” said Briley. “We didn’t turn the ball over too much, we had a few.... But we didn’t stop transistion and they hurt us on the boards.

“So, on one of three, we did a decent job.”

The Rebels turned the ball over just 11 times, but they were outrebounded, 44-30. And while statistics on transistion baskets weren’t kept, it was obvious the Mustangs held a huge lead in that category as well.

“They were pretty fast,” said Midland guard B.J. Cormier, who scored 26 points and had 56 for the two tournament games. “They were definitely faster than Zwolle.”

Title-game MVP Keldrick Timothy led the Mustangs, scoring 22 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing off three assists. C.J. Johnson added 22 more points and tied teammate DD Birdlong for the rebounding lead with 10.

The performance of Johnson, the tallest player on the court, didn’t surprise Briley. But the performance of Timothy did.

“No. 12 hurt us,” he said. “I knew he was going to handle the ball and bring it down the floor, but I didn’t expect him to hit the shots he did. He was quick. But they were all quick.”

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