Coug netters on the prowl

Basketball games between middle school boys are not events typically thought of as intense athletic efforts.

Seventh and eighth grades are a good time to learn the basics, have a good time and play a few friendly games against squads from other schools. It's all in fun.


For the real story, there was no better place to be than in the Langley Middle School gymnasium Wednesday night. For the eighth-grade Cougars game time is serious business.

Going into a game against a tough North Lake Middle School team, the Cougars -- who won the seventh-grade championship last year and were riding a 12-game win streak into the contest -- needed another win to establish themselves as the top team in the North County League. They'd get it, 42-29, but it would take all the tricks they had.

That need grew into the closest game they'd seen all season. After winning five games last year in the final 60 seconds, the LMS eighties got that familiar feeling again from North Lake.

The second half of a double header in which the Cougar seventh-graders fell 58-22 to North Lake, the eighth-graders were out to get a win for themselves and a gym full of fans. They started slow, limited on offense to their lowest first-half point total by North Lake.

Behind by six going into the second half, the Cougars came back with a third-quarter rally to get within one. In the fourth quarter, free throws and one player in particular helped the Cougs -- Jason Tenuta. On his way to a 15-point game, Tenuta brought his team back with 30 seconds to go after the Cougars lost their lead on consecutive turnovers. The last of his four three-pointers did the job, giving LMS a 40-39 lead.

Lakota Holder extended the lead by hitting both ends of a one-in-one after being fouled, and Ben Iddins cemented it by blocking a North Lake trey attempt at the buzzer.

Cougar Coach John Pyrtek said his team responds well to pressure. They have come back from being down at the half in three games this season. They also know how to apply pressure, holding four opponents this season to under 40 points while themselves averaging 51 points a game.

These numbers come against teams from schools much larger than Langley Middle School. Four of the Cougars' five opponents this season have been from school districts with 4A schools.

The big school competition has been harder on the seventh-grade boys at LMS. Though the Cougars' top scorer, Marshall Banks, had 14 of the team's 22 points, offense was otherwise hard to come by.

So far this year, the LMS sevies are winless against the big-school competition. But they have come close to winning. Against Eisenhower Middle School earlier this season, the margin at the end of regulation was just six.

Sevie coach Paul Arand said his team is still getting used to how the big-school teams play and is improving.

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