LAKE CHARLES — Eighth-seeded Donaldsonville’s championship plans came unraveled in the final minutes of the Tigers’ Class 3A semifinal game against Richwood.
The fourth-ranked Rams outscored the Tigers by 16 in the fourth quarter to run away for a 74-56 victory Thursday afternoon at Burton Coliseum.
Reginal Johnson scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead Richwood (28-6) to their second title game appearance in three years. The Rams will face either the winner of third-seed University High and second-seeded Bossier at 4 p.m. Saturday in the championship.
“It feels great to know that we have a chance to compete for another championship,” said Johnson, who was named to the Top 28 all-tournament team as a sophomore. “It’s more pride for me because this will be my second game playing there. Two rings, I can set a legacy for my school. I can get a ring for guys who doesn’t have a ring, I can help them get one. I just want to be helpful to the program.”
Jeremy Jones led Donaldsonville (22-11) with 18 points, while Jermial Jones added 15. Donaldsonville was in the Top 28 for the first time since 2006 and was attempting to win their first state title.
“I feel like we were underrated the entire season and people didn’t feel like we deserved to be here,” Donaldsonville coach Barry Whittington said. “I think we kind of earned a little bit of respect. If I could give one thing to my guys, I’ve been telling them the entire year that we were supposed to be here. We fell short, but I’m not disappointed in the way we played, I’m disappointed in the outcome.”
The Tigers nipped at the Rams’ heels for most of the game, occasionally taking the lead.
Donaldsonville led 48-47 with 6:16 left in the game, but Richwood pulled away in the last four minutes.
Four Rams players scored during a 9-0 run that turned a 2-point advantage into 61-50 lead.
“Everybody was clicking, it wasn’t just one player,” said Richwood’s Deunzay Wyatt, who scored 20 points. “It wasn’t just one player, everybody clicked together.”
“Once (Johnson and Wyatt) got things going, the team just started playing well and clicking and everybody got involved,” Richwood coach Terry Martin said. “The whole game I was looking for that moment. It came slow, but when we got it we came through.”
Donaldsonville’s Stephen Sullivan finally ended the drought with a dunk, but the damage was done.
“Our game plan was to attack the rim. We kind of got away from that with turnovers,” Whittington said. “We had some missed shots right there at the basket that we normally would make. They just went in and out, and once that happened, they were able to get the rebound and kind of ran it down our throat at the end there.”
Johnson scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a emphatic dunk in the final minute.
Richwood hit 10 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter (overall the Rams were 22-of-26 at the free-throw line). Johnson was 5-of-5 at the free-throw line.
Richwood has won five state titles — 1972, 1983, 2005, 2009 and 2012.