ZACHARY — The game was a lot like the one the two teams played last month. Zachary built a big lead, and Denham Springs rallied.
Only this time, Zachary withstood the challenge and came away with a 58-52 victory over Denham Springs in a crucial District 4-5A girls basketball game Tuesday night.
“We were trying to make sure that the same thing didn’t happen to us again,” ZHS guard Rayah Haynes said. “They were pressing us there at the end, and we’ve been practicing against that. It wasn’t easy. We got through it, and now we’ve got to keep it up.”
The sophomore duo of Haynes and Bryanna Langford led the way with 19 points each for the Broncos (22-9, 8-1). Tamia Veal added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the winners.
ZHS’ win forces a tie for first in District 4-5A and also snapped a 19-game winning streak for Denham Springs (25-3, 8-1). If both teams win their final 4-5A games Friday, they will meet again Saturday to decide the title.
Caroline Taylor led Denham Springs with 13 points. Lexi McMorris had 12 points, while Tremeeka Spikes finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets.
“In the last four or five games, we’ve learned how to handle being ahead,” Zachary coach Mike Stephens said. “Other teams make runs at us, and we’ve found a way to win. This was a big one because it gives us a chance to win a district title.”
It was a game of three quarters and a frantic fourth period. Haynes, who had 13 first-half points, scored off a steal and then made a 3-pointer that extended the ZHS lead to 26-10 with 2:34 remaining in the half. Zachary led 30-17 halftime and 42-30 going into the fourth quarter.
Denham Springs put relentless pressure on the Broncos in the final quarter. An 8-0 DSHS run ended with a layup by Maia Robinson that made it a 49-45 game with 2:32 remaining.
Haynes and Langford each made two free throws to extend the lead again, but ZHS was not off the hook. A free throw by McMorris with 1:13 left cut the Broncos’ lead to five points, 55-50.
Langford scored on a layup off a pass from Haynes with 32.3 seconds left to make it 57-50. Two DSHS assistant coaches were ejected after arguing a call six seconds later. Haynes made one free throw during that sequence but it was just enough.
“We lost the game on the boards and on allowing dribble penetration,” DSHS coach Shelly Laprarie said. “We’ll take this one and learn from it.”