Plaquemine boys stave off persistent Tara _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Plaquemine boys basketball coach Donald Johnson gives instructions against Tara on Feb. 9.

Sometimes it’s about Xs and Os and/or putting the basketball through the hole.

There were no extra film sessions or shooting drills for ninth-seeded Plaquemine High.

By the time the Green Devils (22-6) got finished with each practice this week, one thing was certain — the defense never rested.

“At the end of the year we got away from what made us successful,” Plaquemine coach Donald Ray Johnson said. “Defense is what got us where we are. And if we want to advance it’s going to help carry us.”

Teams in all seven classes open the playoffs Friday with first-round games. Plaquemine hosts No. 24 Westgate (13-14) at 7 p.m. to host the Class 4A playoffs. The Green Devils are one two District 6-4A teams in the playoffs. No. 27 St. Michael the Archangel (16-11) travels to Breaux Bridge (14-4) for a 7:15 p.m. start.

The call to defense for Plaquemine came after the Green Devils lost two of their last three games. Johnson believes that the losses to Belaire and St. Michael were just the wake-up call his team needed.

Johnson also stresses that PHS can’t sleep on New Iberia-based Westgate, a team that is physically bigger at most positions.

“We’re going to give up some size, like we have all year,” Johnson said. “That makes defense even more important. What we do is pressure defense, almost strictly man-to-man.

“Westgate is better than a 24 seed. They play in a good district and the New Iberia area is known for basketball. The key for us is knowing when to turn it up a notch and when to back off and deny. Based on our last couple of practices, I think we’re getting back to that.”

The Green Devils typically hold opponents below 60 points. Keandre Randall, a 5-foot-9 guard, leads Plaquemine in scoring with a 13.6 average. C.J. Young (6-0) adds 11.7 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Warriors on a roll

St. Michael made its push for the 4A playoffs by winning all five of its second-round 6-4A games after going 1-4 in the first round.

The Warriors are led by 6-1 Michael Alford, who averages 20 points a game. Alford is the only returning starter from last year’s team that advanced to the 4A semifinals.

“We’ve played a lot of young guys and what happened is they matured as the season went on,” SMHS coach Drew Hart said. “Michael is our top scorer and has led us all year, but we’ve got three other guys who are capable of scoring and that worked to our advantage the last five games. We hope that continues Friday.”