PLAQUEMINE — St. Thomas More basketball coach Danny Broussard will take his 11th time to the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 Tournament next week in Lake Charles.
But he was hard-pressed to remember a team with more resolve than the Cougars displayed down the stretch in Friday’s Class 4A state quarterfinal 53-52 victory over Plaquemine.
“I don’t know what happenned,” Broussard said. “What I do know is that our guys are unbelievable. You can’t measure the heart and desire these kids have. Most teams would have quit being down seven in a hostile environment.”
Top-seeded St. Thomas More rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final 65 seconds to force overtime, where senior center William Vincent delivered the go-ahead free throw with 1.7 seconds remaining.
Following a miss on the second attempt and a timeout, ninth-seeded Plaquemine inbounded the ball to C.J. Young, who took two dribbles and fired a desperation heave from midcourt that was off the mark.
It was a dramatic conclusion played before a standing-room-only crowd where STM (33-7) had its season end a year ago in a 52-40 regional loss to Plaquemine.
The Cougars advances to the Class 4A state semifinal round to face No. 4 Bossier, a 63-61 winner over Ellender.
“We made play after play in the last minute and a half,” Broussard said of regulation play.
Reserve forward Nate Cox was a catalyst in STM’s comeback with his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 1:05 remaining, triggering what turned into a 8-0 run to send the game to overtime tied at 50-50.
“He was big all night for us,” Broussard said of Cox.
Devante’ Benjamin drew STM to within 50-48 with a free throw with 44.9 seconds and Plaquemine (24-7) kept the door open by missing its next six free throws over the next 26 seconds.
The Green Devils were 1-of-8 from the line in the fourth quarter and 6-for-23 overall.
STM called timeout in front of its bench for one final play in regulation and guard Jonathan Joseph beat his defender off the dribble for a lay-up with 2.2 seconds.
“When I went up, I didn’t see it go in,” Joseph said. “But I heard my mom scream. It was very distinct.”
The two teams traded baskets to leave the game tied at 52-52 when STM, who played OT without Benjamin after he fouled out with 14 points, went to its fourth-quarter spread and ran down the clock. Guard Jude Joseph was able to spot Vincent inside, who was fouled on the way up.
Vincent broke the tie with his first free throw, but missed the second and left Plaquemine with only 1.3 seconds to work with.
“I said a little prayer for God to give me strength and he did,” Vincent said.