Following its bidistrict win against Huntington, St. Martinville was able to finally exhale.
The Tigers had gotten the monkey off their back, winning their first playoff game since 2007. Now with some of the pressure off, St. Martinville coach Darrel Mitchell said his team is ready for the challenges his team will face during the rest of its playoff run.
“We hadn’t won a playoff game since 2007, despite being there every year,” Mitchell said. “So we’re very excited to get that one out of the way. Now, if we can only just get another one.”
The next step for the Tigers is beating No. 9 seed Ellender, which beat district foe Northside 62-59 in the closing minute in the first round.
St. Martinville will host Ellender, but Mitchell said he doesn’t expect just because his team is playing at home that it will come away with a victory.
“I don’t know how much of an advantage it is, but we are glad to be home,” Mitchell said. “People talk about advantage at home, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to play well.
“For us to get as far as we want to get, we’ll have to play on the road eventually anyway.”
The Tigers’ man-to-man defense will play contrast to Ellender’s predominately zone approach, and 6-foot-7 St. Martinville junior center Jevante Walker has anchored the team’s defense throughout the season with his explosive leaping ability and shot-blocking prowess.
Mitchell said Walker will have to react quickly to penetration from the perimeter and rotate quickly and effectively to stop any inside shot attempts.
“He’s been clogging up the middle a lot,” Mitchell said. “He knows that if they get into the middle, if he can’t block the shot to make sure and at least alter it.”
Walker will play a role for the Tigers offense as well, sucking defenders in around his post-ups and balancing the court to open up shooters along the perimeter.
“We have to make sure we can get the ball inside,” Mitchell said. “But if it isn’t happening there, we will have to make some shots.”
Mitchell said playing against the zone his team will have to shoot well to bring the Patriots out of the paint and open up the game.
“We’d always like people to shoot well regardless of if you’re playing zone or not, but playing against it, you definitely have to shoot well,” he said.
That’s where St. Martinville’s senior backcourt duo of Drapper Anthony and Bradley Savoy come into the fold.
The two have led the Tigers in scoring throughout the season and have proven to come through in the clutch for Mitchell.
But Mitchell said he has confidence in any of the members of his veteran-laden team to come up big when the Tigers need them to.
“They are doing what seniors are supposed to do. When you are a senior, you are supposed to get it done,” Mitchell said. “Any given day, any other guy could come through. All the seniors on this team are capable of stepping up and getting the job done.”