PLAQUEMINE — For the second time in the game, McKinley built a double-digit only to see a hard-charging Plaquemine make a game of it in the final minute of play.
Once again, the Panthers turned to freshman Tyrese Radford in a time of need.
Radford, who enjoyed some pivotal moments of growth during his team’s march to the EBR Parish tournament final, delivered the go-ahead basket with 41 seconds left and McKinley withstood a pair of missed free throws in the final second for a 49-47 victory Monday over Plaquemine.
“Being from Plaquemine, I knew the toughness of these guys and knew they would ever quit,” McKinley coach Marvin Dotson said. “There was never a time on the side when I could really relax. Some teams make one or two runs, but I knew those guys could make four, five or six.”
McKinley (13-7) established a 42-29 lead with 7:29 to play on Keion Brown’s steal and layup and a fastbreak drive from Radford.
However, Plaquemine (15-5) closed to within 44-39 on a 10-2 run with 3:42 remaining on D.J. Marshall’s baseline drive after a turnover.
The Green Devils’ full-court pressure forced the Panthers into 10 of their 16 turnovers, opening the door for another fierce run that turned into eight straight points with Darwin James and C.J. Young combining for all of the points.
Young tied the game for the third time — the first since the 2-minute mark of the opening quarter — with an inside basket with 1:10 to go.
McKinley, which made all five of its field goal attempts in the final quarter, got the ball to Radford, who made a spin move at the elbow and drove in for what proved to be the game-winning basket.
Brown led McKinley with 18 points with Radford adding 15 in a reserve role.
Young gave Plaquemine one final attempt to the game, intercepting a pass with 13.2 seconds left. Following a timeout, James found Marshall who was fouled on his way for a layup.
Marshall, his team’s leading scorer with 16 points, missed the first of the two-shot free-throw attempt. He purposely missed his second shot, and McKinley’s Russell Daniels rebounded to secure the victory.
“We’ve got to put four quarters together,” Plaquemine coach Donald Ray Johnson said. “McKinley’s a great team, and they got that lead and we had to fight back. It’s hard to come back from 10 down and finish the game. It takes a lot of energy to fight back. We played hard, but we’ve got to finish.”
McKinley closed out the opening quarter with a pair of baskets that launched a 10-0 run that resulted in a 19-9 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter.
McKinley took a 24-16 lead into half and quickly made it 26-16 on Daniels’ driving layup in the first 1 ½ minute of the third quarter.
The Panthers fended off the next in a series of rallies from the Green Devils, holding a 29-25 edge midway through, before re-establishing a 38-29 lead going into the final quarter on Samuel Sanders’ 3-pointer.
“We’re so evenly matched where on any given night, it’s a toss-up,” Dotson said. “We’re fortunate to get the win.”