HAMMOND – Simply put, French Settlement just couldn’t get over the hump in its district-opening loss to St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Lions missed some late chances to cut into the lead before dropping a 58-54 decision to the Falcons at STA on Tuesday.
“We’re trying to fix it,” FSHS coach Jake Bourgeois said after his team dropped to 9-8 overall and 0-1 in District 10-2A play. “We’ve been struggling on the road this season. It just seems like every time we play on the road, we can’t get things to go quite our way – don’t get all the loose balls, don’t make our free throws, don’t get that extra box-out that we need.
“I’m proud of my boys for fighting back and never giving up,” Bourgeois continued. “We got after it. If we would have played like we did in the fourth quarter, I think it would have been a different ball game. We hustled a lot more. We got more rebounds than what we were getting. We got to the line. We were aggressive. We hit some shots, and we cut the lead down, but we just ran out of time.”
STA (3-11, 1-0) led 47-38 heading into the fourth quarter on Nunzio Martello’s basket at the third-quarter buzzer.
The Lions, however, scored five straight points, capped by Edward Allison’s 3-pointer, cutting the lead to 47-43. From there, the Lions struggled from the field, and the Falcons capitalized, taking a 53-44 lead.
FSHS responded with a 7-2 run that was capped by Jonas LeBourgeois’ 3-pointer, cutting the lead to 55-51. During the run, Cedric Witkowski was unable to complete a three-point play, continuing a theme for the Lions, who went 5-for-16 at the line in the game.
“When you shoot under 33 percent from the free-throw line, it’s tough to win basketball games,” Bourgeois said. “We probably missed six, seven layups. Whenever you leave all those points on the board, it adds up and really hurts you in the end.”
The Lions missed a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch that could have cut the lead to a point. The Falcons then slowed the tempo, forcing FSHS into fouling mode.
Jake Berner missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Lions came down with the rebound, and STA’s Devon Wilson stole a pass, forcing Allison to foul.
Wilson’s free throw with 27 seconds left gave STA a 56-51 lead, and the Falcons came up with a steal under the basket after the Lions worked the ball up the court.
“We’ve got to be better down the stretch,” Bourgeois said. “We were down five and we got back-to-back turnovers and just gave it right back to them. I keep telling my young ones now it’s time to grow up. We’re 18 games into the season. I don’t care if you’re a freshman. It’s time to step up handling the ball. I’m hoping we learn from it and build on it and keep building and start a little hot streak here, hopefully get some wins in a row …”
STA’s Devaki Williams hit two free throws with 18 seconds to play for a 58-51 lead before Allison’s 3-pointer with nine seconds left accounted for the final margin.
Wilson missed a pair of free throws with eight seconds to go, and Allison missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“St. Thomas really did a good job controlling the tempo at the end of the game,” Allison said after finishing with a game-high 19 points, including four 3-pointers. “They really slowed it down after we got a few turnovers off the press. Credit to them. They did a good job closing out that game.
“One of our goals was to win district, and (we) start off 0-1, so that’s really like a punch in the mouth, so hopefully this gives us a little something extra to move forward into district,” Allison continued. “It gives us something to look forward to every game, because this one is going to sting for a while.”
The Falcons led 29-26 at halftime, and the STA lead fluctuated between three and five points seven times – the last time at 39-34 – before STA went on a 6-0 run.
Allison completed a four-point play to get FSHS within 45-38 before Martello’s basket at the buzzer.
Allison’s 3-pointer at the buzzer in the first quarter cut the STA lead to 17-14, and consecutive 3-pointers by Draven Smith and Allison got the Lions within 25-23.
Smith and LeBougeois each finished with nine points.
From there, both teams struggled to find any offense with each team hitting a free throw before STA’s Berner hit a 3-pointer for a 29-24 lead. LeBourgeois’ free throws with eight seconds left cut the lead to 29-26 at halftime.
STA opened the game on an 8-2 run before an Allison 3-pointer and a putback by Smith cut the lead to 8-6. STA went ahead 13-6 before Will McMorris’ bucket and Francis Hartwick’s 3-pointer got the Lions within 13-11.
The Falcons led 17-11 before Allison’s 3-pointer to end the first quarter.
“We’ve got a couple of goals – reach 20 wins, the other one is win district,” Bourgeois said. “That’s not out of sight yet. We’ve got to play nine more games. We’ve just got to start putting it together now and not later.”