GARRETT – Coming into the boys basketball sectional tournament, Leo coach Cary Cogdell and his staff had discussed the fact that their 6-foot-5 big men, sophomore DJ Allen and junior Zack Troyer, hadn't put together good games on the same night so far this season.
But the towering pair put it all together at exactly the right time Wednesday, beating SAC champion Bishop Luers 58-46 to move on to the Class 3A Garrett sectional semifinal on Friday.
Allen scored 19 points and Troyer 12, and they pulled down 16 rebounds each as the Lions (17-7) dominated the Knights 49-30 on the boards.
"I'm very, very proud of them," Cogdell said. "We have, down the stretch, really focused on going inside to them, because we feel like that's our advantage. There are a lot of teams that have one good big. We're fortunate that we have two."
Leo smothered the Knights (15-7) in the opening minutes of the game, jumping out to a 15-3 lead. The Knights did not take good enough care of the ball, on multiple occasions grabbing the defensive rebound under Leo's basket only to have the ball knocked or wrestled away. Allen and Troyer used their length to prevent the Knights from getting good shots off. Senior Naylon Thompson scored all seven of Bishop Luers's points in the first quarter, and the rest of the team was 0 for 8 from the floor.
Bishop Luers clearly missed Demarcus Hudson, who was averaging 15.9 points before going out with a foot injury last month, but the Knights also missed the 6-5 senior's size down low. With him on the bench, 6-7 senior John Peterson was often left to battle 2-on-1 for rebounds.
The Lions said they expected Bishop Luers to go on a run eventually, and the Knights did. Bishop Luers ended the first half on a 7-0 run, and the final minute of the second quarter went as well as the Knights could've hoped for. Senior Jalen Causey got a steal to set up a bucket by Peterson. The Lions were called for a turnover on their next possession, and Thompson tipped in the second-chance shot at the buzzer to go into the locker room down 29-17.
"They're a team that's predicated on pressure, and teams like that make runs," Cogdell said. "It's a game of ebb and flow. You're going to have some turnovers, and you just have to minimize it."
Causey opened the second half with a 3-pointer that cut the Lions' lead to 29-20. He would hit three more buckets in the third quarter, but the Knights only got as close as 33-27.
"I feel like we got more confidence defensively, because we knew that they were going to make runs," Allen said. "But just coming back, if they did make a good shot we came back, we got back on defense, talked and got the stop."
Junior Blake Davison scored 19 points for the Lions. He picked up his fourth foul with about six minutes left in the game, but managed to play down the stretch without picking up a fifth.
Thompson led the Knights with 25 points, 10 of which he scored in the fourth quarter. Causey scored 12 in what proved to be his final high school game.
Leo will face Woodlan (14-10) in the tournament semifinals on Friday.