LAKE CHARLES — Tuesday's script was eerily similar to one that played out Monday night.
Fourth-seeded White Castle was outscored by 12 points in the fourth quarter and was in danger of losing to Tensas, but Kenneth Bracken Jr. and the Bulldogs flipped the script.
Bracken made six fourth-quarter free throws, including two with 2.1 seconds left as White Castle held off top-seeded Tensas 61-58 in the Class 1A semifinal game that opened Tuesday’s action at the Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Basketball tournament.
“When we are practicing, coach makes sure we emulate situations,” Bracken said. “I just relax my mind and take my shot. It is the same routine."
With the win, White Castle (23-8) advances to play No. 2 Delhi in the 1A title game at 2 p.m. Friday at Burton Coliseum. White Castle beat Tensas (33-2) in the 1A title game a year ago.
“The good thing about it is, we’ve been here before,” White Castle coach Troy Green said. “This is not our first deal getting here. And in the preseason we see a lot of teams that help prepare us. We didn’t think it would be easy. Tensas was the No. 1 seed. We knew they would come at us.”
Bracken finished with a team-high 17 points and Tré Melancon had 15 for White Castle. Albert South led Tensas with a game-high 27 points. Tyler Spencer (12) and Jamieyon James (11) also led the Panthers.
White Castle's District 6-1A rival Southern Lab also led by 15 points in the fourth quarter on Monday but lost 41-34 to Lafayette Christian. White Castle led by 15, at 49-34 after three quarters.
While Southern Lab made 11 of 27 free throws, including 4 of 12 in the fourth period, White Castle made all eight of its fourth-quarter free throws and was 14 of 16 for the game. By comparison, Tensas was 7 of 21 from the free-throw line, including 1 of 5 in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t get the outcome we thought we were going to get,” Tensas coach Charlie Williams said. “I can’t tell you exactly how many free throws we missed but that was our downfall in the end.”
White Castle trailed 2-0 before going on a 16-4 run. Melancon, who scored 11 points in the first half, hit two of the four 3-pointers. The Bulldogs led 19-10 after one quarter and extended their lead to as much as 13 points in the second quarter.
Tensas get as close as six points. Four free throws in the final 1:25 by Bracken. sent White Castle into the locker room with a 35-25 advantage.
White Castle’s 49-34 third-quarter lead started to evaporate before Tensas guard Lamont Bass took an elbow to the head from a teammate. The game was delayed while Bass was put on a stretcher. South later made it a two-point game at 53-51 with a layup at the 1:50 mark.
A 3-pointer by Spencer made it 59-58 with 3.8 seconds to, leading to Bracken’s final free throws.
"We knew they were going to make a run, but we stayed together and stayed focused,” Bracken said.