AFFTON • Despite only scoring 36 points in their previous game, Jay Laue knew the Lift for Life Hawks posed a threat.
The coach for top-seeded Affton, Laue saw the Hawks in action when the two teams played each other in a summer league. What he didn't expect was a team shooting so well that he was forced to switch the Cougars defense in order to prevent an upset in the Affton Holiday Basketball Tournament.
"We do go zone a lot, and that's the first time we've had a team come out and shoot the ball like that," Laue said after the Cougars held off the Hawks 68-52 in a tournament semifinal.
Affton controlled the game from the tip-off, bolting out to a15-5 lead. But the Hawks hung around thanks to 10 three-pointers.
"We couldn't score in the fourth quarter — that was our main problem," Lift for Life coach Terrence Hobson said. "We played them well in the first three quarters and we just didn't get over the hump."
Fred Gordon, who had a game-high 26 points, was a sparkplug for the Cougars. The senior guard, who ranks in top 10 in the area in points, steals and assists, was a constant presence on both ends of the court. He had a nifty one-handed steal off an inbound pass that he converted for a layup in the third quarter, and then followed it by drawing a foul off a fast break on the next possession.
"He's so fast, and his motor just runs all the time," Laue said of Gordon. "Sometimes things don't go his way, but he's still all over the place."
The Hawks were kept in the game by sharp-shooting freshman Justin Turner, who had a team-high 17 points. He made three treys in a four-possession run in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to six points and prompting Laue to call a timeout. Turner, who normally starts for the Hawks, was limited with the flu.
"He's going to be a special player for us," Hobson said of Turner, who didn't started in Lift for Life's tournament-opening victory against DuBourg nor Tuesday as he recovers.
Both teams were forced to adjust to man-to-man defenses in the fourth quarter. Both coaches made the switch when the game was fluctuating between one and three-point Affton leads, although the move away from zones cooled off Lift for Life's shooting and allowed the Cougars to drive to the basket en route to a commanding lead.
"They were getting open looks at three and we weren't getting there in time so we had to make that adjustment," Laue said.
Affton moves on to face Priory in the tournament championship Wednesday, which will be a battle between the top two seeds. Lift for Life plays Windsor in the third-place game.