OPELOUSAS — Opelousas High couldn’t afford to drop to another game.
The Tigers entered the final three games of the season needing to win at least two of those contests to secure a playoff berth. Opelousas did just that by defeating archrival Beau Chene first and closed out the season besting Teurlings Catholic, with both games coming down to last-minute shots.
Those clutch victories clinched a spot in the Class 4A playoffs, and more importantly, according to coach Brad Boyd, prepared his team for pulling off a major first-round upset.
What Opelousas accomplished Friday was going on the road and defeating No. 7 Tioga 56-53 for the team’s first playoff win since 2013, and only the third playoffs win in the past seven years.
“That was the best four days of practice that we have had all season,” said Boyd, who was a star guard for both St. Thomas More and Louisiana-Lafayette. “That really helped us the other night against Tioga.”
No. 26 Opelousas (17-12) will host No. 10 McDonogh 35 (20-9) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“We had to play team ball,” said senior Terrell Lewis, who had a game-high 23 points in the win. “Coach told us to never give up. We had to put the team on our backs.”
A big reason for Opelousas’ upset victory was the pressure the Tigers put on with their slowed-down pace of defense. Boyd implemented a 1-3-1 zone, which slowed down Tioga’s guard and forced 24 turnovers.
“That was all about coach,” Lewis said. “With the pressure of our defense, we would be able to trap them and they would make them either travel or turn the ball over.”
After not winning a game during summer league play, Opelousas had an inconsistent regular season as the Tigers were without two players because of academic eligibility until the halfway point of the season.
They then had to go through the gauntlet of District 4-4A play facing St. Thomas More, Carencro and Northside — three teams that advanced to the second round.
“They felt that they could compete with those guys, and we did,” said Boyd, who replaced longtime coach Jamie Rollins this past summer. “We didn’t win a lot of those games, but we competed and that’s what matters.”
“We had to fight through a lot of things this season,” senior and three-year starter Marvin Thompson said.
Boyd and the Tigers are looking to continue competing past Tuesday as the team eyes its first quarterfinal appearance since 2008, when Opelousas defeated Holy Cross and Broadmoor in the first two rounds before falling to Carroll.
Opelousas is facing a team that was a state semifinalist a year ago and features one of the state’s top prospects in DeJon Jarreau, who signed with UMass.
“He is very talented,” Boyd said. “You hope and pray that he has a bad game because you are not going to shut out a player of that caliber. Not to reveal too much, we are hoping to put him in bad positions.”
After having a vocal and large crowd travel to Friday’s road game, the Tigers are expecting an even larger and louder crowd on Wednesday night. Boyd said more than 100 tickets have already been sold for the game as of 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.
“It is going to be packed,” Thompson said. “They may be watching the game from outside the gym.”