New Iberia Senior High basketball player Dillon Mandaville drives towards the basket at St. Martinville Senior High on Sunday. Photo by Allyce Andrew 12/30/12
Although they didn't execute their game plan in the beginning of the game as they had hoped to, the Yellow Jackets refocused and performed its strategy to perfection in the next three quarters to defeat the Warhorses 59-56 to win the St. Martinville Holiday Shootout.
"It's definitely a big win for us," Yellow Jackets head coach Todd Russ said. "I'd be lying if I stood here and said this isn't a big win or this win isn't a big deal because it is. It's a big feather in our hats because we didn't just beat a team, but we beat a program."
The Yellow Jackets' three-headed monster of Dillon Mandeville, Mike Sam and Damone Dugas proved to be too much for the Warhorses as the trio almost outscored Peabody by themselves combining to score 51 points en route to the win.
"Peabody is a great team," Mandeville said. "They have a big time program over there, so this is a real good win for us. It's a really big win for us."
Mandeville, who was stellar for the Yellow Jackets the entire tournament, finished with a game-high 23 points en route to garnering the tournament's Most Valuable Player award.
"Dillon can really shoot the basketball," Russ said. "He can shoot the basketball with anyone in the state. But not only that, but he has the ability to play with his back to the basket as well. He's a good player."
With Mandeville leading the way, Sam proved his worth for the Yellow Jackets when they needed him most scoring 15 of his 18 points in the second half to help keep the Warhorses defense off-balanced.
"We've never won this tournament before, so that was our goal coming into here," Sam said. "We were focused on just winning this tournament and we didn't care who we had to play to get it done."
The Yellow Jackets entered the fourth quarter trailing 40-39, but Mandeville tied and regained the lead for NISH at 42-40 by making three-of-four free throws with 7:37 left. Mandeville was awarded two free throws after being fouled in the act of shooting, but while at the charity stripe a technical foul was called on the Warhorses Dvonte' Tennie for showing up the ref.
The teams exchanged a couple of baskets before the Warhorses took its final lead of the night when Gabriel Jordan made one-of-two free throws to give Peabody a 45-45 lead with 5:25 remaining in the game.
Less than a minute later, the Yellow Jackets regained the lead permanently on a layup by Sam to take a 46-45 lead with 4:55 remaining in the game. From that point on, the Yellow Jackets outscored the Warhorses 13-11 en route to securing the 59-56 win.
"I felt like we came out too excited for the game in the beginning," Russ said. "Because of that we didn't stick to our game plan, but as the game went on we calmed down and began to do the things that we wanted to do. We grinded it out and we defended. We made it difficult for them to score and that was the key to the game."
In the losing effort for the Warhorses, Carlton Lowe finished with a team-high 22 points, while Tennie was the only other player to score in double-figures as he ended the game with 10 points.
"We have had some good wins in the past," Mandeville said. "But we haven't beaten anybody as good as Peabody."
Follow assistant sports editor Eric Narcisse on Twitter @tdanarcisse.