Playing in the consolation bracket of the Monroe City Tournament for the first time in several years, the Louisiana boys’ basketball team opened the game with a 9-0 run on its way to winning the Consolation Championship. Louisiana beat tournament host Monroe City 57-45.
“It is a little disappointing to be on the consolation side of the bracket,” Louisiana coach Derrick Branstetter said. “It is the first time in two years we have played on that side in any tournament, so it is kind of bittersweet. But, we always go into every tournament wanting to win hardware, that is the goal.”
The Bulldogs (2-1) held Monroe City to just 4 points in the opening quarter. After scoring the first 9 points, Louisiana allowed the Panthers to score a pair of quick buckets before closing out the first quarter on another 6-0 run.
“It was a fast-motion, fast-paced game,” Louisiana junior Tristan Castiglia said. “I got tired out there quite a bit, but so did everybody else. Sometimes you just have to push through it.”
Louisiana led Monroe City 14-4 going into the second half and did nothing to let up. The Bulldogs outscored Monroe City 15-6 on their way to a 29-10 lead at halftime.
“I think our pressure was working for us,” Branstetter said. “We were doing a good job of pressuring the ball, rotating into traps and out of traps and not giving up easy looks.” Castiglia scored 12 points in the first half to lead the way for the Bulldogs. Castiglia finished the night with 18 points. In addition, Castiglia pulled down 13 rebounds to finish the night with a double-double.
“We have to have that from him,” Branstetter said of Castiglia’s play. “Really, he is our lone post player. We have to have nights where he goes out and gets us 15-16 points. The rebounds are really big for us because we are not very big, so he has got to be the guy that is going to clean things up for us.”
Fulton failed to score anything for Monroe City in the first half.
“We did a good job of not giving (Fulton) any open looks,” Branstetter said. “He was always contested and we wanted to make him on the floor to his right as much as possible and we did a good job of that.”
Monroe City (2-3) matched Louisiana point for point in the second half (9-9) and came close to doubling its first half scoring output in the third quarter. But it wasn’t enough to cut into the Bulldogs’ lead.
The Panthers finally got their offense rolling in the fourth quarter. After scoring 19 points over the first 24 minutes of play, Monroe City exploded for 26 points in the games’ final eight minutes.
“We had to step up the pressure,” Monroe City coach Brock Edris said. “We were down quite a bit and we didn’t have a choice. If we were going to get back in the game, we were going to have to force turnovers and make some shots.
“Fortunately we were able to force some turnovers,” the coach continued. “That goes again to the kids just playing hard and playing for each other.”
Castiglia thought the intermission helped Monroe City.
“Halftime gave them a good rest,” Castiglia said. “We were trying to get back into a rhythm.”
While the Panthers’ offense finally cut into the Louisiana lead, it wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs put up 19 points in the fourth quarter to secure their 12 point victory.
When Castiglia wasn’t scoring for Louisiana, the Bulldogs had several players who were able to score. Junior Zach Martin finished the game with 13 points while seniors Brendan Ross and Greg Pitzer both chipped in 8 points for Louisiana.
“That (Martin) is a bonus,” Branstetter said. “Zach is a solid offensive player. He is a kind of defensive first kid. But for the first three games, he has probably been our most consistent offensive player. He has been very steady and not forcing things. ... When he goes out and gets in double figures, that is good for us.”
Castiglia wasn’t the only player to record a double-double though. Monroe City’s Kyle Fulton also turned the trick, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 boards for the Panthers.
“He had to work for all the points he got tonight,” Edris said. “He probably didn’t shoot the ball as well as he wanted, but as a team we didn’t shoot the ball very well.”
But Fulton’s performance was more of a too little, too late performance.
“He got loose quite a bit in the second half,” Branstetter said. “They did a really nice job of spacing the floor to help and chase and he got some open looks and he hurt us.”
It wasn’t only Fulton who failed to score in the first half, most of the Monroe City team was unable to sink any shots. Blake Rodgers finished the night with 9 points, seven of which came in the second half while Grant O’Bryan scored all seven of his in the fourth quarter.