Wearing down in the second half under Ruston's full court pressure, Bastrop dropped a 55-35 verdict to the Class 5A Bearcats at Sam's Place on Tuesday night.
Ruston scored on its first two possessions and never relinquished the upper hand. Jerry Melton's slashing layup and Jamaya Burr's transition bucket staked the Bearcats to an early 4-0 lead.
Embarrassed by the Bearcats in a 63-21 Jan. 11 loss at Ruston, the Rams kept it close throughout the first half.
Trailing 14-9 at the end of the first period, the Rams played the Bearcats on even terms in the second frame.
Quan Washington's drive off the pump fake closed the gap to 14-13, but it was as close as the Rams could climb.
Ruston maintained a lead of 3-5 points for the remainder of the half, before carrying a 24-19 advantage into recess.
“I thought we played well in the first half,” Bastrop coach Theabury Odom said. “As the game wore on, they started leaning on us a little and I could tell the difference in the strength factor. They were just so much bigger and stronger than us.”
In contrast to the first matchup against the Bearcats, the Rams competed this time around.
“It was a lot better than the last time,” Odom said. “We are showing improvement.”
Bastrop stayed within striking distance until late in the third quarter.
Alontae Alford's bucket from the paint off of a Jerry Powell assist and a pair of Jay Wilson free throws drew the Rams within 33-27.
But the final 11 points of the quarter belonged to the Bearcats.
Jakevin Carter's hook shot triggered the flurry, Burr nailed two free throws and a bucket from point blank range, Carter scored on a tip-in and Melton swished a 25-footer at the buzzer to give the visitors a sizable 44-27 spread.
Bastrop was never closer than 16 in the final quarter.
Ruston's press took its toll on the Rams, forcing 30 turnovers.
Melton topped a trio of Bearcats (22-6) in double figures with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Burr was next with 14 — seven in the third quarter — and Raheem Regis chipped in 10.
Wilson was the lone Ram in double figures with 11 points. Bastrop (13-6) received a team-high eight rebounds and three blocked shots from Demarkiyo Devoil.
Notes: Central Arkansas head football coach Clint Conque, offensive coordinator Brooks Hollingsworth and wide receivers coach Matt Kubik attended the game. UCA is among three schools (McNeese State and Northern Colorado are the others) that have extended scholarship offers to Wilson, the Rams' All-State wide receiver.