TRURO - A win was crucial and the Cobequid Cougars knew it.
So they went out and cruised to a 74-51 victory over the North Nova Gryphons to open their best-of-three Northumberland Region boys basketball final Tuesday at CEC Gym.
"We feel really good about it," said Cougars guard Austin Deuville, who poured in 18 points.
Game 2 is tonight at North Nova at 6 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, is Saturday at 3 p.m. in Truro.
With only three games to decide the regional champ, the Cougars wanted to get things started on the right foot. Falling in the first game would leave no margin for error the rest of the way.
"It was really important," Deuville, a 17-year-old Shortts Lake resident, said. "It was good to get the first one and we won't be as stressed in the second game."
Cobequid broke out of the gate strong and extended a 10-point lead on the Gryphons before the Pictou County rivals battled their way back late in the opening quarter.
But the Cougars slammed their foot back on the gas to open the second quarter and never looked back.
"I think we underestimate that team sometimes," Deuville said. "We come out kind of slow and sluggish and have to get back into it and get focused and come back and play a bit harder."
Taran Jordan paced Cobequid with 28 points, while rookie Andreas Foerster chipped in 10.
"We just out-hustled them and we were beating them on the boards and got to the line more than they did," Deuville said. "We probably could have played better, but it was a good win."
It was a monumental effort from the Cougars, who are missing several players due to injuries and sickness. The shorter bench meant those left standing had to dig deep to find the energy to play hard at the end of the game.
Now, the Cougars look to wrap it up tonight on the road.
"Hopefully we can stay focused and get some more guys back on the floor," Deuville said.