Ninth-grade Lawrence South battled hard on Thursday afternoon to keep the fifth-place title in the Warhawk Invitational Tournament from going to an out-of-town team.
After losing their first-round game, the Cougars caught fire to win their next game before taking down the Shawnee Mission South Raiders, 57-31, to take home the fifth-place plaque.
Cougars coach Scott Petry said South players put their best foot forward in snatching the win.
"The kids came out and really played hard and we always feel good about that," Petry said.
Dar Fornelli started the game off for the Cougars after he broke through Raiders defenders for a bucket. Fornelli bounced back before the end of the first to sink a layup, scoring four of the Cougars' 22 points of the first quarter. Jayce Eubanks also contributed four points with both a rebound put back and another two-pointer.
Petry said Eubanks proved to be a strong asset for the Cougars.
"Initially, Eubanks set the tone a lot and we got the ball to him," Petry said. "I also thought our press made the difference."
The Cougars' Vienney Phimovang also made himself useful to the team dropping in a three-pointer while Clint Pinnick pounded in another before the clock ran out on the first quarter.
The Raiders responded with four baskets and a three-pointer from Blake Saffels to put the pressure on the Cougars, but it wasn't enough to make the Lawrence team crack. The Cougars closed out the first leading 22-13.
Fornelli started the second quarter with a steal that led to a bucket attempt from Aaron Rea. After his initial attempt Red later sunk in a two-pointer. Chebon Dawes also dropped in a shot two seconds later.
The Raiders put the heat on the Cougars tightening their defense and disrupting the high-low. The Cougars came to play and they finished the first half 14 points ahead of the Raiders.
Cougars point guard Rashaad Marshall said the team gained their edge strategically.
"I think we had good teamwork," Marshall said. "We ran our plays with help from the big men and we had a good press."
Because the team has such a strong and persistent press, Coach Petry has had to look for ways to keep the Cougars refreshed and powerful. Petry resorted to subing in five new players to play until the next break.
"Because we press all the time we always need fresh legs," Petry said. "We tried other methods but replacing everyone seemed to work the best."
Petry's method must have worked because the Cougars used the third quarter to secure the win. Eubanks layed the ball on the glass for two and Dawes jumped in for a steal that led to a Rea bucket. After three failed bucket attempts Eubanks pushed past the Raider defense for a nail biting rebound bucket that swooshed around the rim before finally falling in.
The Raiders tried to battle back with a layup from Mike Levine and J.W. Grace and a R.J. Newton two-pointer, but could not beat the Cougars.
The Cougars ratcheted up their score even more in the waning minutes of the last quarter of the game. Jake Green got in on the action with a dizzying blitz of baskets to give the Cougars nine of their 16 points in the last quarter. Dawes and Marshall also hit their mark to give the team a final point tally of 57.
Petry said he was glad the Cougars could walk out on a good note.
"We had a winning season and I am happy with the kids' efforts, they worked through adversity," Petry said.