PLAQUEMINE — Ideally, a freshman like Plaquemine’s Herb Thomas shouldn’t get his first taste of a playoff basketball atmosphere until next month.
But there Thomas stood with the score tied at 47. Thomas was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer as the clock expired.
Fans for Plaquemine and Belaire screamed at the top of their lungs and jumped up and down as the 5-foot-10 point guard stepped to the free-throw line.
He missed the first free throw and then the second. But Thomas bent his knees and focused. It was nothing but net and the third try was indeed the charm.
The fans erupted one more time. Plaquemine had rallied from a 14-point deficit to claim a 48-47 victory over Belaire in District 6-4A action at PHS on Tuesday night.
“Over the summer (Thomas) took over the responsibility of running this team,” Plaquemine coach Donald Ray Johnson said. “That is a tough situation for anybody, but we’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. He’s already made shots to win other games for us this year.
“It’s that way with the team, too. Even when we went down by seven points in the fourth quarter, I knew we’d have a chance.”
Both player and coach acknowledged this one was special. With the win, Plaquemine (17-4, 3-0) remains unbeaten in 6-4A. Belaire (17-6, 3-1) fell just short of the signature 6-4A win it was seeking.
“I was supposed to make the first two,” Thomas said. “But I knew I had to make the last one. And I knew it was good as soon as it left my hand.”
A.J. Riley scored 11 points and Kirkland Jones added nine for the Green Devils, who trailed from the 4:15 mark of the first quarter until Thomas made that final free throw.
Belaire’s Terrence Johnson scored a game-high 15 points. Ben Percy added nine with three 3-pointers.
“In my opinion that foul shouldn’t have been called,” Belaire coach Chauncey Moore said. “The kids from both teams worked too hard to see the game decided like that.
“But these guys battled. I know a lot of people look at our record and don’t understand this is the first year we’ve played together as a group. We’re still coming together. Of course, (Plaquemine) still has to come play us.”
Belaire and Percy in particular had the hot hand early. Percy made two 3-pointers from the left side to help the Bengals jump out to an early lead. Two free throws by Johnson sent BHS into the second quarter with a 15-7 lead.
The Bengals expanded their lead to as much as 14 points during the opening minutes of the second quarter. A 3-pointer by Jerrell Bowman put Belaire ahead 22-8 with 5:45 to go in the half.
Plaquemine dominated from the rest of the half, outscoring the Bengals 17-7. A 3-pointer by Keandre Randall and a layup by Riley in the final minute cut Belaire’s lead to 29-25 at halftime.
The Green Devils inched closer in the third quarter. A free throw by Jones with 51.8 seconds left cut Belaire’s lead to 39-37.
But the Bengals had one run left and scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter. Robert Lewis scored off an assist from Johnson and made an ensuing free throw. It was 46-39 with 5:19 to play.
Plaquemine outscored Belaire 9-1 the rest of the way. A.J. Riley made two baskets down the stretch. Thomas made two free throws with 19.2 seconds remaining to set up the game-winning sequence.
“Basketball is a game of runs, and both teams knew that,” Johnson said. “Belaire’s a great team. We got the last run this time.”