PLAQUEMINE — St. Thomas More basketball coach Danny Broussard understood the task at hand.
In order for his program to extend its streak of Top 28 appearances to three straight, the Cougars would have to shoot a high percentage, rebound well and defend efficiently.
While there were glimmers of those traits sprinkled in throughout it, wasn’t something No. 13 St. Thomas More was able to sustain for long stretches, thus falling at No. 4 Plaquemine 52-40 in Tuesday’s Class 4A state regional.
“We couldn’t score,” said Broussard, whose team was limited to 30.2 percent shooting. “We had a hard time rebounding, and at times I thought we did a good job of blocking out. It was a physical game and that wasn’t to our advantage. It would have had to been called tighter.”
STM (25-10) concluded a successful season that included a tie for the District 5-4A championship with St. Martinville.
“I’m really proud for this bunch to win 25 games,” Broussard said. “We had one starter back from back to back Top 28 appearances. It was a grind all year long. It was fun coaching them. They really worked at it. They gave effort tonight and played really hard.”
Plaquemine, the District 6-4A champion, won for the 10th time in its past 11 games and travels to face McDonogh 35 in Friday’s quarterfinal round.
STM survived a slow opening start to lead 16-11 after the first quarter on the strength of a pair of 3-pointers from reserve Deuce Wallace, who finished with 10 points.
Devante Benjamin’s free throw and William Vincent’s inside basket pushed the Cougars’ lead to 19-13 with 4:42 remaining before halftime.
STM forced Plaquemine to miss 12 of its first 13 shots of the quarter before senior center DJ Marshall, who had 13 points, ignited a 9-1 run over the final 1:34 with five straight points.
Jonathon Cisse’s free throw provided STM with its lone point during that stretch, tying the game at 20-all, before reserve PHS guard Jamie Lawless scored his only points of the game — a 15-footer with 1.3 seconds left.
“I thought the last two minutes of the second quarter really hurt us,” said Broussard, whose team was 1 of 8 shooting. “Had we come into halftime with a six-point lead it may have been different. Give them credit for making some defensive plays.”
Baskets from guard Trevor Begue and Vincent kept the game tied at 26-26 with 4:12 remaining until Plaquemine, which shot 55 percent in the second half, went on a 10-0 run over the next two minutes to make is 36-26 with just under two minutes to play.
Senior guard Cameron Garner was the catalyst with consecutive 3-pointers, sandwiched around an inside basket from Marshall, until Begue answered with his 10th point on a cutting lay-up with 1:40 left.
STM remained within five points on three occasions, the last coming at 43-38 on a drive by Wallace with 3:38 remaining, only to have PHS answer with a 9-2 spurt.
“They answered every little run,” Broussard said. “I thought this year they found ways to win.
“Coming in that’s what I worried about; they just find ways to win all year long.”