Leo coach Cary Cogdell admits that there are certain things that worry him when it comes to having a young team.

Actually, there may be more than just certain things.

“Everything about a young team concerns me,” said Cogdell, who plays just a single senior in his primary rotation. “To be honest we have had our ups and downs this season. We have been inconsistent, we had a rough patch in the middle of the year where we did not play very well. We were able to stabilize that down the stretch.”

So when Cogdell’s team was trying to hold off a Bishop Luers second-half rally in Wednesday’s second game at the Class 3A Garrett Sectional, Cogdell was definitely concerned.

Allen
Leo’s DJ Allen scores through contact from Bishop Luers’ Naylon Thompson during March 4’s Class 3A Sectional game at Garrett High School.

But his team delivered. Fighting off every comeback attempt by the Knights in a 58-46 victory to propel the Lions into Friday’s sectional semifinals.

In a way, building up a 19-point first-half lead was the easy part for Leo. Making big play after big play down the stretch to not allow Bishop Luers to come back was much more difficult.

The two bigs for the Lions – D.J. Allen and Zack Troyer – were big all night. The sophomore and junior, respectively, each finished with double doubles in the game with Allen putting up 19 and 16 and Troyer adding 12 and 16. But it was the duo’s presence around the hoop that was arguably their biggest impact.

Without leading scorer Demarcus Hudson, who suffered a season-ending injury at the end of the regular season, Bishop Luers aimed to take the ball to the bucket in a fast-paced, frenetic tempo. But Leo did an exceptional job not being beaten back down the court and anchored Allen and Troyer in the post.

“When we saw that Hudson was out, we really studied film and saw that we would have the size advantage,” Allen said. “But we knew they would make a run (in the second half).”

Bishop Luers trimmed a 29-10 deficit to 12 points by halftime, then got the game to within eight early in the third. That eight points turned out to be the magic number for the Lions. Every time the Knights would cut the Leo advantage to eight, Cogdell’s team had an answer.

When it wasn’t Allen or Troyer in the post, it was junior Blake Davison. Twice in the second half he converted three-point plays when Leo’s advantage was cut to single digits. Davidson never left the floor, playing all 32 minutes despite picking up a fourth foul with just over six minutes left in regulation.

Instead of taking his stout guard out to protect him against fouling out, Cogdell trusted Davison to play smart.

Davison
Leo’s Blake Davison shoots a free throw during the second half of March 4’s Class 3A Sectional game against Bishop Luers, played at Garrett High School

“We have run with him all year, I simply told him he couldn’t foul out,” Cogdell said. “Even if he is not scoring we need him on the floor. He is a good passer, a good rebounder. I told him if he was going up for a layup he better make sure there was no one under him. If we had lost him (to a fifth foul) that would have hurt.”

Davison and his fellow teammates played smart down the stretch, allaying their coach’s fear of potential mistakes by an inexperienced team in a big spot. But with every Bishop Luers stymied by big buckets or some key free throws, in which Leo made 16 of 21, Cogdell’s confidence in his team grew.

Naylon Thompson scored 25 points for Bishop Luers, but other than Jalen Causey (12 points) no one else had more than five. It wasn’t enough for the Knights, who came out flat without their top scorer and never recovered.

Meanwhile, a Leo (17-7) team that looked lost after three straight conference losses in mid-January has now won nine of 10. None were more impressive than Wednesday’s at Garrett over the SAC regular-season champions.

“This is big for momentum,” Allen said. “We put a lot of work into getting for this one and to beat the SAC champs is huge.”

 

 

 

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