DUTCHTOWN — The distinct pink hue in Dutchtown’s gym immediately distinguished Thursday’s District 5-5A game between St. Amant and Dutchtown from any ordinary meeting between the rivals.
For 32 minutes it resembled a traditional contest with plenty of ebb and flow, four ties and a dramatic conclusion with the Griffins holding on for a 47-45 victory.
“We won a ballgame, and it’s a district game for us,” Dutchtown coach Annette Lowery said.
In between, though, players and coaches from both banded together in support of former Dutchtown freshman Claire Carline, who briefly served as the Griffins manager along with her older sister Camille.
On the morning of Dec. 11, Claire Carline’s life was tragically taken as the result of a car crash en route to school with her two older sisters.
“Claire told me after two weeks that she had to quit,” Lowery said. “She said her grades were slipping. She had all A-plusses and an ‘A.’ She was dedicated to education.”
Players and coaches from both teams pushed aside their rivalry and banded together, wearing pink T-shirts adored with “Geaux Pink for Claire” slogans in her memory.
At halftime the family, with Claire’s sister Camille and Colleen showing signs of a gradual recovery, were presented a card with proceeds from a 50/50 raffle along with balloons, flowers and stuffed animals.
“This game was meaningful to us,” Lowery said.
Dutchtown, which lost an eight-point lead midway through the last quarter, played inspired down the stretch.
After Maci Marchand tied the game at 40-all — concluding a 9-1 run for St. Amant — guard Kyra Harleaux answered for Dutchtown with a 3-pointer and two free throws from Tyler Smith with 1:06 left to make it 45-40.
Smith led the Griffins with 14 points. Harleaux and Kelsie Baker each scored nine.
Senior Kara Gremillion got St. Amant (12-11, 1-1) to within 45-43 with her third 3-pointer only to have Dutchtown respond with two free throws with 19.8 seconds left from Royelle Cobb.
Gremillion, who scored 15 of her game-high 21 points in the second half, accounted for the final score with an off-balanced basket with 3.7 seconds left.
Dutchtown (13-10, 2-0) inbounded the ball to Harleaux, who dribbled out the remaining time.
“It was going to be a competitive game,” St. Amant coach Kristy Englade said. “We both had the same record. We finally settled down but couldn’t overcome the deficit. We tied it up but couldn’t overcome it.”
Dutchtown wiped out a 9-4 deficit with an 11-0 surge that bridged the first and second quarters, resulting in a 15-9 lead on Harleaux’s layup after a turnover.
St. Amant overcame 19-percent shooting and nine turnovers to forge a 23-22 lead at the 5:32 mark, courtesy of a 10-2 run out the locker room after halftime, with Gremillion and Ne’Kyla Williams each knocking down 3-pointers during that stretch, setting the scene for a stirring final 10 minutes from both teams.
“Hopefully the girls put some heart into it, and we can carry it on the next eight games we have,” Lowery said.