Despite getting out to a double-digit lead, No. 2 Leesville struggled to put away No. 30 Tara in its playoff opener.
The Wampus Cats got enough offense to pull away late to advance to the second round of the LHSAA Class 4A Playoffs with a 74-56 win Thursday night at home.
"It feels good to get the first one," Leesville head coach Troy Grigg said. "It was a rough one, because we didn't come out and finish like we should have. In the third quarter, we let them get momentum and cut the lead down to 9. We picked it back up, but we can't allow that because the teams are getting better and better."
Senior forward Duwon Tolbert came up big for the Wampus Cats, recording 27 points and controlling the boards.
"I told him that they had nobody that could guard him in the paint," Grigg said. "That's where we needed to go with the ball, and we did. They started double teaming, and we got other stuff in the first half. In the second half, he was wide open down there, and we were shooting the ball. We wanted to try and put them away with the big shot rather than how we were supposed to – going inside-out."
Leesville led by as many as 19 in the third quarter, the Tara cut the lead to 9 with 34 second left in the period.
Tolbert and Deondre Wilson hit back-to-back layups in the final seconds to give Leesville a 55-42 lead after three quarters.
Tara could never pull within single digits again but would not allow the Wampus Cats to get comfortable in the final quarter.
With 2:24 remaining, Leesville shut the door with a 6-0 run, capped off with a layup by Wilson, to make it 72-55.
"Wilson brings a big threat with the 3, but he also has a floater from 12-15 feet," Grigg said. "Sometimes he goes in unsure what to do with it. He's been a big lift because of his size, he can dribble the ball and he's quick."
Wilson finished with 17, and Seginald Bryant added 13 in the win.
The Wampus Cats will take on the winner of No. 15 Opelousas and No. 18 Northside next week.