St. Thomas More ends Istrouma’s run

LAKE CHARLES — Istrouma’s Cinderella run through the Class 4A boys basketball playoffs came to an end Saturday.

No. 2 St. Thomas More held off No. 11 Istrouma 46-40 in a LHSAA Southwest Regional semifinal at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

St. Thomas More (31-4) will play fourth-seeded Northside, a 52-50 the winner over No. 1 Peabody in the other semifinal, in the title game. With the win, the Cougars reached the final for the first time since 2003.

Under first-year coach Aaron Pearson, Istrouma (25-7) was in the semifinals for the first time since 1964.

The Indians reached the semis by upsetting No. 6 Washington-Marion 54-50 in the regional round and No. 3 Alexandria 68-63 in the quarterfinals.

“They’ve done something that hasn’t been done since 1964. That’s something they should feel proud about,” Pearson said.

“We didn’t accomplish what we set out to accomplish, that is very true, but what they did was something special, something different.

“We had some big wins, some tough losses, a lot of ups and some downs. These guys played great.”

Guard Trey Touchet led St. Thomas More with 15 points, while Charlie Padgett added a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds. Marquise Kaigler notched his own double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Indians. Tevin Walker added eight points.

Istrouma outrebounded St. Thomas More 31-25, but STM coach Danny Broussard credited Padgett and his teammates for limiting the Indians’ second chances.

“Istrouma’s game is the boards. They just kill people on the boards, and all week long I told our guys if we just give up one shot, there’s no way they can beat us,” Miller said.

“I thought we did a tremendous job on the boards tonight. I thought that was the difference.”

St. Thomas More led most of the game, although Istrouma took a 21-20 edge on Walker’s offensive rebound with 6:10 left in the third quarter.

St. Thomas More’s Orynn Veillon answered back with a layup that sparked an 8-0 run. Veillon also capped the run when Ryan Randle grabbed a loose ball and found him cutting to the basket. The ball took a friendly roll around the rim before dropping in, and Veillon hit the ensuing free throw to push the lead back to 28-21 with 2:38 left in the third.

“We didn’t have a successful possession after they took the lead back, and
they were able to come down and score again on us and make a little run,” Pearson said.

Istrouma kept Touchet, St. Thomas More’s leading scorer, in check for most of the game, but he broke free for eight points as the Cougars pulled away in the final minutes.

“He was a key guy for them,” Pearson said. “I don’t think it was one particular person that won that game for them. A lot of guys hit some shots, got some rebounds, got some steals on us. It was a team effort by them.”

“Pretty much they were up tight on me, and I was able to adjust to it toward the end of the game,” Touchet said.