LAKE CHARLES — Freshman guard Ja’Vonte Smart already had a ton of accolades. Now the 6-foot-3 guard has a place in Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Top 28 lore.
Smart made a 3-pointer with five seconds left to send the game to overtime and then scored eight more points in overtime as third-seeded Scotlandville escaped with 62-60 victory over No. 7 C.E. Byrd on Tuesday night.
The Hornets’ top 3-point shooter, Jordan Adebutu, had fouled out with 14.7 seconds. Byrd standout Chad Lott missed both free throws, leaving the door open for Scotlandville.
Smart, who finished with a game-high 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting, marched through it, making a jumper from the top of the key to tie the game played at Burton Coliseum. It was his first 3-pointer of the night, though he added two more in overtime.
“In the huddle, coach was like who is going to shoot the game- (winning) shot,” Smart said. “I said, ‘I’ve got this.’ ”
With the victory, the Hornets (32-4) advance to the 5A title game for the sixth straight year. Scotlandville faces top-seeded Natchitoches Central, a 49-43 winner of No. 20 Higgins, in the other semifinal played late Tuesday. A crowd of 3,589 attended the four-game session that opens the five-day tourney.
“I think that was a heck of a ballgame,” Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said. “My kids are just so persistent and so determined. I had two guys foul out, and they were on the bench coaching more than me. It was a team effort and a freshman turned into a senior tonight.”
The 6-foot-3 Smart, who Sample said is a distant cousin of former McKinley player and Indiana hero Keith Smart, led a balanced attack. Adebutu had 15 points with four 3-poointers. LaMarcus Lee and Garrick Green each had 12. Green pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds.
Demetri Mahoney also had 17 points for Shreveport-based Byrd (26-6), which made its first tourney appearance since 1997. Kory Ashley (15), Lott (13) and Montrey Thomas (11) also paced the Yellow Jackets.
“It comes down to the things you think are simple — free throws and layups,” Byrd coach Rusty Johnson said. “We missed some of both. If we make our free throws (in the fourth quarter), it doesn’t go to overtime. We got beat by a very good team, but Byrd basketball is back on the map.”
Ball movement was the key to much of what Scotlandville did in the first half. The Hornets’ ability to move the ball around the court to the baseline led to wide open 3-pointers for Adebutu, Jalen Hawkins and Lee.
But at the heart of Scotlandville’s effort was the 6-foot-4 Green, who scored 10 first-half points, making 4 of 7 shots from the floor. Green also had nine rebounds, just seven fewer than the entire Byrd team.
Scotlandville made five first-half 3-pointers. Adebutu and Hawkins each had two; while Lee had one. The Hornets also had nine assists, including three for Adebutu. SHS led by as much as nine points and took a 36-29 lead into the locker room.
Lott, who averages 23 points per game, was held in check in the first half, making just 1 of 4 shots for two points. Mahoney picked up the slack with 13 points, including a 3-pointer on 6-for-6 shooting.
The Yellow Jackets changed things up in the second half defensively, switching to a different type of press. The move paid off as Byrd forced five key turnovers at one point. Byrd outscored the Hornets 14-2 in the third quarter.
Lott scored seven third-quarter points, many of which came in transition as the Yellow Jackets led 43-38. But Byrd never could separate itself from Scotlandville. The teams traded the lead a couple of times in the final two minutes before Smart’s late heroics.
“He always goes 10-for-10 (when we practice) shooting 3s,” Lee said. “I knew he was going to knock it down.”