Istrouma coach Aaron Pearson said his team got over a big hump on Tuesday night on their home floor.
The Indians survived 32 minutes of a wide-open battle to defeat a senior-laden Alexandria Senior High team 68-63 and advance to the 4A state semifinals.
A year ago Istrouma (26-6) dropped a disappointing quarterfinal game to Neville, and Pearson said his team remembered that loss.
“They still speak about that game,” Pearson said. “I wasn’t here for that game, but I reminded them of it. That was a hump that we got over.
“This game was a dogfight from the jump, and it stayed that way, but Devin Bethley put this team on his back tonight. He said he wasn’t going to let us lose, and he’s a big part of why we didn’t lose.”
Bethley didn’t score in the first quarter, but then he warmed, scoring 26 points for the game including three 3-pointers.
“He’s done that before this year, but this was the big one. This could have been our final game, but now we have new life,” Pearson said.
Like most quarterfinal games this one came down to the fourth quarter, and more specifically, to the last 5:02 of the game.
That’s how long the Alexandria (29-6) had to play without 6-3 Shaan Washington, their powerful inside force who battled Istrouma’s Kaigler brothers, Carvis and Marquise, until he fouled out.
Washington picked up two quick fouls on a double technical with Istrouma’s Tevin Walker, followed almost immediately by his fifth personal.
The Trojans tied the game on Christavious Gill’s sixth 3-pointer of the night with 3:04 left, but with Istrouma now controlling the inside, the closest ASH would be after that was 61-58 before the Indians pulled away.
Alexandria coach Samuel Tinsley said that time frame was the difference in the game.
“They’re very big, very physical, and playing on the road is definitely a factor. I thought it was a well-officiated game, but it seemed like the fourth quarter, every call and every break of the ball that we needed to go our way, went their way and they took care of their business,” he said.
Gill, who came in averaging 23 points a game, finished with 31 (seven 3-s) to lead the Trojans. Eddie Travis also reached double figures with 14.
The Kaiglers finished behind Bethley in the Indians’ scoring, Carvis with 14 and Marquise with 13.
Gill was on fire in the first half, scoring 15 points on three 3’s and three field goals.
Bethley answered for the Indians in the second quarter with nine points.
ASH went up by six midway through the first quarter before Istrouma scored four straight to trail 15-13 as the quarter ended.
A 9-3 run put Istrouma ahead 28-23 with 1:12 left in the half, but the Trojans scored seven straight, punctuated by Gill’s long three at the buzzer, to retake the lead 30-28 at halftime.
Istrouma will move on to play St. Thomas More, a winner over St. Augustine, in the semifinals.
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