PORT ALLEN —The final high school basketball game of the year might have been the best one as district rivals University High and Port Allen battled in a Class 3A quarterfinal game before a standing-room-only crowd.
Neither team led by more than eight points in the game, and the score was 63-63 with seconds left in regulation when U-High’s John Jones barely missed a 3-point attempt and Ishmael Lane grabbed the rebound for Port Allen, sending the game into overtime.
During the next four minutes, Jones came back to sink his next 3-point attempt, the Cubs were good on 10 straight free throw attempts, and they held off the Pels for a 76-73 victory and a berth in the semifinals against St. Louis in Lake Charles at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.
U-High (29-1) will going for a school’s double-double next week, since their girls team captured its second straight title on Friday and the boys will play for their second in a row.
“We expected a really hard-fought game, and that’s what happened,” U-High coach Joe Spencer said. “They (the Pelicans) have been playing so well at the end of the year and through the playoffs.”
Port Allen (25-7) was playing well enough to stay with U-High throughout the game, and with five minutes left in the game had visions of upsetting the No. 1 seed. Fired up by three straight 3s by Jordan Morgan to open the second half, the Pels seized the momentum and opened a 52-44 lead.
Then, quicker than you can say ‘defending state champions,’ the score was 52-52 and the battle to the finish was on.
Four different players scored during U-High’s 8-0 run. Wayde Sims converted after a turnover, Jalen Johnson had an offensive rebound and putback, Mays scored after a block by Johnson, and Jones got the basket to tie the score.
“We had to get stops on defense,” Spencer said, “so we went to a little trap and got some turnovers.
“The will to win was there. They didn’t panic, and they hung together. Tonight, we needed everybody. Everybody who got in there played a crucial role.”
The Cubs’ balance showed in the scorebook. D.J. White scored 10 points in the third quarter and 23 for the game. Sims followed with 18, Mays with 17 and Johnson with 12.
Port Allen had 22 from District 7-3A MVP Ishmael Lane, eight of those coming on signature two-handed dunks and eight points, including a long 3, in the overtime period.
“The coaches are making him the district MVP and he won defensive MVP and (Saturday night) is the reason why,” Port Allen coach Brandon Ricard said. “He took on two big boys (Sims and Maxwell Starwood) almost by himself and he held his own. Northwestern State is getting a great, great (player).
“We finally played the way Port Allen is supposed to play,” Ricard said. “It’s just tough to lose at home when you had a chance to win. In the end we just turned the ball over and didn’t get enough rebounds.
Nigel Allen scored 14 for the Pels, Morgan had four 3s for 12 points and Andre Williams came off the bench to score nine.
U-High opened the game with a 6-0 lead on a three by Johnson, a basket by White and a free throw by Sims while Port Allen turned the ball over on their first two possessions. The Pelicans came back on back-to-back 3s by Morgan and Harrison and a driving layup by Nigel Allen to take a 12-8 lead.
Sims stepped outside for a three and a 13-12 lead, and Marshall Graves connected from outside the arc to put the Cubs up 16-14 after one quarter.
Lane scored six for Port Allen in the second quarter, including his second dunk of the game and Telson Allen hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 23, but U-High pulled away for a 27-25 halftime lead.