LAKE CHARLES – Pitkin ran into the top team in Class B in the semifinals, and No. 1 Simsboro showed how it earned that ranking.
Simsboro shot over 50 percent from the field to pick up the 85-46 victory Wednesday afternoon at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“We came into the game wanting to limit their fast break opportunities and keep them off the glass while limiting our turnovers,” Pitkin head coach Jake Greene said. “We started off doing a great job in the first few minutes, and I think it may have caught them off guard a bit.
“We had a few turnovers and gave up a few offensive rebounds. We stopped doing the things we were supposed to do and dug ourselves into a little bit of a hole. I’m super proud of these guys. No matter what the score was, we kept fighting.”
Pitkin hung around early with guard Garrett Edwards scoring the first nine points for Pitkin as the Tigers got out to a 9-7 lead in the first quarter.
However, Simsboro began to take over in the paint, grabbing nine offensive rebounds and collecting nine second-chance points in the first half.
“They are really athletic, and people were saying they were going over the back and stuff, but in reality, they weren’t,” Edwards said. “We were in front of them but we couldn’t jump with them. When they can jump as high as they can, there’s nothing you can do about it besides hit them. That was part of Coach (Greene) saying we didn’t execute the game plan like we should have.”
Simsboro outscored Pitkin 21-9 in the second to take a 47-20 lead into halftime.
The Tigers played better in the second, cutting down on turnovers and limiting second-chance buckets, but could not hit 3s at the rate it had throughout the year.
As a team, Pitkin went 3-for-21 from behind the arc, a far cry from nine makes per game it averaged this season.
“It’s a lot tougher of an environment to shoot,” Greene said. “Confidence-wise, it wasn’t an issue. I’ve had coaches tell me to make them believe, and I tell them that I don’t have to make them believe. I have to settle them down sometimes.
“This arena is just something we haven’t done all year, and they’ve never done it in their careers. I’ve shot out there, and it’s tougher than a normal high school gym.”
Simsboro kept its pressure up to seal the win and advance to the Class B State Championship game, where it will take on No. 2 Doyline.
The Tigers started off the season slow, getting out to a 6-8 start before an open conversation turned their season around.
“We had a team meeting, and the guys came together like I’ve never seen before,” Greene said. “They laid aside egos, apologized and asked for forgiveness. Everybody decided to buy in to what we are trying to do as a team and become closer as teammates. We went on an 18-game win streak, which is incredible.”
Edwards led all scorers with 36 points and 13 rebounds and left the court to a shower of cheers from appreciative fans for one of the best players the area has ever seen.
“It really goes to show just how much our community enjoys watching us,” Edwards said. “Even after losing as bad as we did, they cheered like we won the game. It really hit me walking off the floor that I’ll never pick up a basketball again. I just love my community and teammates so much. I”m just so thankful that we have the best fans in the state.”