Midland slips by Zwolle in overtime
LAFAYETTE - With points difficult to come by in the post, the Midland Rebels turned to their perimeter game Tuesday in their Class B semifinal matchup with the Zwolle Hawks.
That, it turned out, proved to be a winning strategy.
The Rebels, seeking their first state title since 1977, connected on 14 of 23 attempts from 3-point range, many drawing oohs and ahhs from the crowd, built up a lead of as many as 18 points and then held on for a nail-biting 79-78 overtime victory over the Hawks.
The No. 2-seeded Rebels, reaching the state finals for the first time since 1979, will now meet No. 1 seed Rapides for the championship Friday at 6 p.m. Rapides eliminated Fairview, 83-75, in Tuesday's other semifinal.
"I know a lot of people probably looked at us when we walked out on the court and figured it would get ugly and we'd be taking a whipping," said MHS coach Todd Briley following the game. "But I believe in our guys and they beleive in themselves.
"We have good shooters. We have four guys shooting over 40 percent from the three this year. We always have at least one guy hitting shots, but tonight we all were hitting."
Indeed they were - and not just your ordinary 3-point shots. No, many of the shots the Rebels were making came from the cheap seats and they couldn't have come at a better time.
Junior forward Allen Fontenot carried the load early, sneaking up on the Hawks for six 3-pointers and 20 points in the first half to help the Rebels take a 43-28 advantage at the break.
"Coach always tells us to play and shoot with confidence and that's what I did," said Fontenot, who drained 7 of his 10 3-point attempts and finished the night with 24 points. "I blocked everthing out and just played my game and that's it."
Fontenot and senior guard B.J. Cormier, who finished with 30 points, went on a tear from beyond the arch in the first half, combining for 10 of the Rebels' 11 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes.
"They were shooting NBA-range 3-pointers and they were knocking them down," said Zwolle coach Bradley McLaren, whose team was helpless to stop the hot-shooting Rebels. "We thought we had a pretty good gameplan going in ,but..."
Fontenot and Cormier's offensive production proved critical due to the job the Hawks' defense did on leading Midland scorer Miles Prejean in the first 16 minutes. Prejean was limited to just four points in the first half.
Prejean shook loose for 12 points in the final frame and overtime to finish with 16 overall. His biggest came with six seconds left in overtime when he made one of two free throws to give the Rebels a 79-75 lead.
That negated an off-balance 3-pointer by Zwolle's Breion Beaver's at the buzzer which proved to be only window dressing for the Hawks, who pulled their jerseys over their heads as they walked off the court.
"We did a good job on Prejean, but maybe that's what we did wrong," said McLaren. "Maybe we should have let him score and then they pobably wouldn't have shot so many threes. We held Prejean and the other kids stepped up and hit some big shots."
Zwolle hit some big shots as well, most by 6-foot-8 center Marvin Frazier and 6-foot-4 David Smith patroling the post. The duo combined for 15 points in the paint in the third quarter to help lead the Hawks on a 22-7 run that cut the lead to 50-49 with just under two minutes to go in the frame.
"We gave up to many putbacks and let them in it," said Briley.
"We knew they were going to make a run," said Cormier. "We knew we had to stay calm and focused, take the lick and bounce back from it and that's what we did."
The lead switched hands numerous times in the fourth quarter before Smith hit a free throw with 11 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.