LIVINGSTON – Right now, their record isn’t exactly sparkling, but Doyle coach Daniel Kennedy isn’t getting caught up in that.
Instead, he’s getting the Tigers ready for what lies ahead this season.
Doyle dropped its second straight game in its own tournament as Class 5A Ponchatoula put together a big fourth quarter to pull away for an 80-74 win Tuesday at the Doyle Elementary Gym.
“Coming into the tournament, I knew that I had scheduled two tough teams on purpose,” said Kennedy, whose team dropped a 94-87 decision to Class 5A St. Amant in double overtime Monday and fell to 3-3 on the season. “We want to be good, and we want to be able to make a deep run into the playoffs. So when we made this schedule out this year … this front half, we really tried to play a lot of really bigger schools and athletic schools and good schools – teams that we thought were going to make a run in their classification as well. We knew we were stacking the deck against us, so to speak, because I wanted our guys to know what it is to fight and have to be the underdog when you step out on the court and play some bigger, faster, more athletic teams.
“I am very proud of how we competed,” Kennedy continued. “Now, I am sick that we lost both these games because I really felt like we outplayed them. We missed free throws in both games, that if we make free throws, we probably beat both of those teams, but that’s how basketball is. We didn’t take advantage of that situation.”
The Tigers led 55-49 heading into the fourth quarter, but the momentum swung quickly as the Green Wave’s Ryan Elzy scored all of the points in an 8-0 burst, with five coming off Doyle turnovers, for a 57-55 lead.
“I took my point guard (Keen) out,” Kennedy said of the run. “We’re exhausted. We’ve had lot of games in a short amount of time, so I was trying to rotate, and it’s the first time I took him out of the game … and in those 30 seconds, they go on an 8-0 run … so he only got a 30-second break. I have good guards, but they depend on him (Keen) too much, so those other guys need to step up and handle the basketball because he can’t play 32 minutes.”
“Ponchatoula puts a lot of pressure on you, which is good,” Kennedy continued. “Those guys having to handle the basketball in that situation is good. They exposed some things, so we need to work with those guys and get those guys more comfortable handling the ball and making decisions without our point guard on the floor.”
Doyle’s Braden Keen and Andrew Yuratich combined to go 4-for-4 at the line to put the Tigers back ahead 59-57, but Elzy, who had 36 points, hit a 3-pointer and got an inside basket to put PHS ahead 62-59.
From there, Doyle tied the game twice – the last time at 65-65 when Yuratich hit a pair of free throws after Ponchatoula was called for a technical foul.
The Green Wave got a steal on the ensuing possession, and Elzy converted on a three-point play giving Ponchatoula the lead for good at 68-65 with 3:46 to play.
Down the stretch, Ponchatoula limited Doyle to one shot frequently while picking up defensive rebounds which turned into points, stretching the lead to 77-69.
Yuratich hit a 3-pointer, and Landon Wolfe’s free throws got Doyle withing 78-74 with 34.2 seconds to play, but Ponchatoula went 2-for-4 at the line to close out the game.
The Green Wave was 16-for-24 from the line, while Doyle went 19-for-32. Ponchatoula’s Jordan Thomas scored seven of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, going 5-for-8 from the line.
“They made their free throws,” Kennedy said. “They were a better percentage, and we didn’t. We didn’t take advantage of that.”
Yuratich’s inside basket gave Doyle a 33-32 lead at halftime and there were two quick lead changes to open the third quarter before Logan Turner hit consecutive 3-pointers, putting Doyle ahead 44-36.
The Green Wave whittled the lead to 46-44 before Turner hit another 3-pointer for a 49-44 Doyle lead.
“I’ve just been practicing. It’s one of the things I can do well,” Turner said of his 3-point shooting after finishing with 16 points, including five 3-pointers. “Ball-handling obviously not one of my things. I’ve just been very confident lately. My teammates, they look for me, they give me the open look, and I pop that thing in. They trust me with it.”
Doyle had 11 3-pointers with Keen (20 points) two, Yuratich (19 points) three and Hartland Litolff (7 points) one.
Ponchatoula got as close as 51-49 before the Tigers closed the quarter with a 4-0 burst.
The Tigers led 18-15 at the end of the first quarter, but Ponchatoula took advantage of turnovers to score the first six points of the second quarter.
“Our guys showed up with some toughness, a chip on their shoulder like guys who wanted to compete, and gave themselves a chance to win,” Kennedy said. “I can’t tell you how proud that makes me. I enjoyed that game. We did some things, obviously, that I want to correct, but I enjoyed the competitiveness of our guys and the fight of our guys tonight.”
Turner connected on a 3-pointer giving Doyle a 25-24 advantage, but there were three lead changes and one tie before Keen’s 3-pointer keyed a 5-0 burst by the Tigers to close out the first half gave Doyle a 33-32 lead.
“This is what we were trying to tell them after the game … we’re competing for a 2A state championship,” Kennedy said. “Those teams, you don’t see that caliber in 2A until you get to the second, third (rounds of the playoffs) or Top 28. I want them to believe that, ‘hey we can do this’, and that we’ll be battle-tested by the time we get there.”