Bruins top Tigers in sectional semifinals

Mar. 1—LEBANON — Defensively, the Lebanon boys basketball team put themselves in the position they wanted to be in on Friday night in the sectional semifinal against Tri-West.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Bruins hadn't cracked the 40-point plateau, and were on pace for one of their lowest scoring out puts of the season.

But unfortunately for Lebanon, they were unable to capitalize on their strong defensive play on the other end.

Lebanon was held to 17 points in the second half, and the Bruins advanced to the sectional title game with a 46-38 win.

"The last four or five games of the season, our defense has been really good," Lebanon head coach Albert Hendrix said. "We got them to play the type of game we needed to play to win tonight, we just missed shots in the second half — especially in the third quarter. That was the ball game."

Neither team was able to get much separation in the first half.

Lebanon led by as many as four in the first quarter, and Tri-West led by as many as six in the second. The Tigers closed the first half on a 10-1 run, taking a 22-21 lead into the locker room after a 3-pointer by Wesley Byrd in the waning seconds of the half.

But the third quarter changed the game.

Tri-West scored the first five points of the quarter as the Tigers missed their first two shots. Byrd hit a shot to cut the deficit to 26-25, but the Bruins finished the quarter on a 7-0 spurt to make it 32-25 heading to the final quarter.

"They got a boost early and hung around and had every opportunity to get ahead of them again, but the shots just wouldn't foul."

Part on Hendrix frustration in the second half came from the Bruins ability to get to the free-throw line.

The Bruins shot 26 free throws to the Tigers 0 in the game, including 22-0 in the second half.

Eight came from the Tigers fouling late to extend the game, and twice the Tigers fouled a player in the act of shooting a 3-pointer.

Lebanon, who came in averaging 10 free throws a game, hadn't played a game under Hendrix (14 years) in which they didn't attempt a free throw.

"We didn't get some of the calls they got, some of the tick-tack nit-picky calls they did," Hendrix said. "But it also comes down to grit and toughness. Our kids have to get in the weight room and get stronger so they can be drive to the basket and be physical."

The Tigers got the opening basket of the fourth quarter to get within five, but would get no closer.

Byrd led the Tigers with 14 points, and Kaden Lark added 11.

It was the first time in a month the Tigers had their preferred team on the floor. Hendrix said it's was tough to get reconnected offensively, but he was proud of how his guys stayed together."

The Tigers finished the season 9-16.

They graduate Ben White, but return their starting five.

"It's tough to get the guys to buy in when you don't have them," Hendrix said. "Hopefully next year we don't have these issues and we buy in all year long, which will make us a better team. But you can't fault our kids effort over the last six-seven games. Under the circumstances we had, these kids laid it on the line and played their butts off."

"I'm proud of our guys for gutting it out after the injuries and some of the other things we have been through the last month," Hendrix said. "We had a week to prepare, not knowing if our guys would be able to go. But they did everything they could."

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.