The Leesville Road varsity basketball teams both used key 15-0 runs to swept Cap-8 4A foe Wake Forest on the road Friday night.
The Pride boys (13-9, 9-3) outscored the Cougars 29-9 in the fourth quarter, completing a comeback in its 64-49 win. The girls (19-3, 10-2) didn’t need any comeback after running to a 19-2 lead after one quarter and cruising to the 55-42 win.
For three quarters, the Wake Forest boys (10-12, 4-8) played inspired basketball, but it quickly fell apart in the fourth quarter.
“It’s kind of been our M.O. lately to play one bad quarter, and we picked the wrong one to play bad in,” said Wake Forest coach Todd Seymour.
Leesville had simultaneously played an up-and-down three quarters with a good first period and then sluggish middle quarters. But the Pride immediately came out of the break with more energy.
“We started getting after the rebounds,” said Leesville forward Ben Zemonek, who led his team with 18 points. “They were getting two, three shots up every possession in the second and third (quarters). We started falling behind, giving them open looks. Once we started rebounding and getting after it, (the game) turned our way.”
Point guard Alex Hunter drove and converted an and-1 layup on the first possession. Jonathan Mebane quickly followed with a three to put Leesville up 41-40, a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Wake Forest pulled back within two after Demetrius Everett sank three free throws with 4:30 left, but Leesville kept on scoring. A 15-0 Pride run ensued, and with just over a minute left, the game’s outcome was all but decided.
“When you’re winning in the fourth quarter, teams are going to bring pressure and that’s what Leesville did tonight and we cracked,” Seymour said. “We weren’t prepared to win.”
When the momentum swung back in the Pride’s favor in the fourth quarter, it’s no coincidence that Cougars big man Xach Gill wasn’t on the floor. He left the court to change bloody shorts caused by an injured elbow, and his team missed his rebounding muscle, passing and rim protecting.
Gill finished with 10 points but really impacted the game just by drawing attention away from other players. Because he’s so strong with good vision and touch, he would pass out of double teams in the post and found Everett multiple times for threes.
“He’s a mountain in the lane,” Zemonek said. “You’re always looking for him. We definitely had problems with him in the first half.”
Unfortunately for Wake Forest, by the time Gill returned, Leesville had full control of the game and didn’t look back.
Whereas the Leesville boys used a big final quarter to win, the girls were just the opposite in their victory over the Cougars (7-15, 2-10).
The Pride started the game with 15 unanswered points behind the long-range shooting of Kelly Funderburk and Shea Plocharczyk. The Cougars looked outmatched early and couldn’t keep up with Leesville’s desire to run.
As Leesville’s lead increased, Wake Forest settled for more shots leading to easy Leesville fast breaks. And the cycle continued.
“Once we hit all our shots, we were confident and we just had to play defense and that’s how we got our lead big,” said Funderburk, who led all scorers with 20 points.
Wake Forest would play better starting with a second quarter in which they outscored Leesville 11-9. The Cougars played more zone defense and the Pride went cold from deep. Wake Forest guard Kayla Surles kept her team in the game with her 18 points, but every time the Cougars threatened Leesville, the Pride would tighten the defense and find an easy bucket in transition.
“Our intensity went down after we were up so big,” Funderburk said. “But then when we knew that the game was still going on, we had to keep scoring little by little.”