Rapides upends Midland in Class B title game
LAFAYETTE – The Midland Rebels pride themselves on their physical conditioning and stamina.
Unfortunately, so do the Rapides Mustangs.
Rapides, the 2009 state runnersup, used their uptempo style of play to break open a tight game in the second and third quarters Friday and cruise to a surprisingly easy 83-61 victory over the Rebels in the Class B state championship game at the Cajundome.
“They (Rapides) were pretty quick,” said Midland standout guard B.J. Cormier, who led all scorers on the night with 26 points. “They just kept pushing it at us and we couldn’t slow them down. We just weren’t ready for that type of game play.”
“It was just up and down and up and down,” said senior forward Miles Prejean, who finished with 23 points. “It wasn’t that we were tired. They were also strong in the post. They were just the better team tonight.”
Rapides’ speed coupled with poor shot selection by the Rebels also aided in the Mustangs victory.
Midland went from a red-hot shooting night Tuesday in a 79-78 overtime victory over Zwolle to being ice cold Friday. The Rebels shot just 37.3 percent from the floor (22-for-59) and 18.8 percent from 3-point range (3-for-16). Against Zwolle, they shot 61 percent from 3-point range and 50 percent overall.
“My guys came out and did exactly what we asked them to do,” said Rapides coach Travis N. Broussard. “We contested the threes, made them put the ball on the floor and made them try to score inside. I thought our interior defense would be strong enough to keep them from being successful and they did what we asked them to do.”
Early on, the game looked as if it would be another nailbitter after both teams traded baskets in the opening quarter to end the frame in an 18-18 tie.
Midland got going early in the second quarter, taking its biggest lead of the game with 6:10 remaining in the half when Allen Fontenot drained a long range 3-point to give the Rebels a 25-20 advantage.
From there, it was all Rapides.
The Mustangs went on an 18-5 run to end the half and took a 38-30 lead into the break. During the run, the Rebels took what head coach Todd Briley labeled as some “ill-advised” shots, at one point coming up empty of five straight trips down the court.
“We just took a lot of low percentage shots tonight,” said Briley. “If we get good shots, I feel like we can make them. But a rushed shot off one pass with a guy running at you, I don’t want that. I give them (Rebels) all the green light, but it has to be a high percentage shot.”
Rapides didn’t let up in the second half.
The Mustangs went on a 10-0 run to start the third quarter behind 3-pointers from title game MVP Keldrick Timothy and D.D. Birdlong and layups from Tremain Woodruff and C.J. Johnson.
“The first three or four minutes of the second half in every game is very important,” said Broussard. “The team that plays the best in the first three or four minutes of the second half usually has the advantage for the rest of the game.”
The Mustangs went on to outscore the Rebels 17-10 in the final six minutes of the quarter to take a commanding 65-40 cushion into the final stanza, which for all practical purposes sealed the Rebels’ doom.
“We don’t rebound offensively too well, so when we miss, it’s like a turnover,” said Briley, whose team hit just four of their 12 shots from the floor in the third quarter. “We have to really utilize every possession we get so we get a good look and I didn’t think we did that in the spurt where it got going too fast. That was huge in turning the whole game around.”
Despite the huge deficit, the Rebels didn’t quit and at one point, it appeared they may pull off a dramatic comeback.
The Rebels went on a 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 69-56 with just under five minutes to play. During that stretch, Cormier scored eight points on three driving layups and two free throws while Prejean slashed the lane for two baskets.
“We wanted to get out on Cormier because obviously after watching the Zwolle game, he got to stroking the three and we didn’t want that to happen,” said Broussard. “So we allowed him to penetrate a little bit. He’s a pretty good player and he did a lot of that on his own.”
Midland’s comeback attempt looked to be even more plausible when the Rebels made a steal in the front court after cutting the Mustangs’ lead to 13. But a missed layup thwarted the rally.
Rapides took advantage, scoring five straight points to push the lead back to 18 (74-56).
“If we could have made that layup, it might have been a different game,” said Briley. “We missed that layup and then we fouled and that just killed it right there. And then Allen (Fontenot) fouled out right after that.”
Rapides outscored Midland over the last three minutes to claim their second title in the last three years.
“Our guys have worked hard all year and it all came down to this point and they made the best of their moment,” said Broussard.
Although the Rebels ended the season on a somber note, Briley was quick to give his team nothing but praise.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” he said. “Usually at Midland, for us to be successful, we always have to overachieve. We only play six kids. We have a lot of kids on the team, but a lot of them are young and they’re just not ready yet.
“These guys, we ask them to press fullcourt man-to-man and you can’t get tired, you can’t get hurt, you can’t get sick. And you can’t get in foul trouble, either. These guys have done a pretty good job of that all season and I think that’s why the people in the community really rallied around them so much.
“They are really a special group and they did a good job all season, especially these seniors.”