PLAQUEMINE — Other than hoisting the Class 1A state championship trophy in three weeks it was the next best thing for White Castle High boys basketball team.
Should the Bulldogs go on and win one of the state’s most talented classifications they’ll look back favorably on their performance in a 41-37 nondistrict victory Friday over Iberville Parish rival Plaquemine High.
“It prepares us for a playoff atmosphere,” said White Castle senior guard Jacorey Washington, the game’s top scorer with 17 points. “There’s going to be people hanging off the railings like this and people calling us names. We’re ready to push through in the playoffs and hopefully bring home a state title.”
For the first time in four meetings this year District 8-1A champion White Castle (23-7) turned back District 6-4A winner Plaquemine, jumping out to an 11-0 lead, maintaining double-digit margins in each of the four quarters before holding off a furious charge in the final three minutes of play from the Green Devils (23-6).
“We saw this (scheduling) in the summer and thought it would be a good one and it was,” White Castle coach Troy Green said. “I played in this game when I was at White Castle and Coach (Donald Ray) Johnson played in it at Plaquemine. We knew what it was going to be. The communities embrace it.”
The two teams played before a captive audience with some having to squeeze into the ailes while others spilled out onto the corners of the floor for a glimpse.
You would be hard-pressed to find a postseason game that could match the intensity and the electricity throughout the crowd that truly came to life with 3:34 remaining on Charleston Spears’ fast-break dunk, drawing Plaquemine to with two at 34-32.
The Green Devils’ run reached 11 straight points — taking their only lead of the game with 2:34 left — when C.J. Young’s 3-pointer in front of his team’s bench made it 35-34.
“They play hard and because of the rivalry they’re going to play even harder,” said Johnson, whose team had an eight-game win streak snapped. “It’s a tough one. We battled back. It’s known we’re a defensive minded team and that’s how we beat people. Of course we make mistakes here and there at critical times and it just came down to execution.”
White Castle won its 11th straight game despite wobbling down the stretch with five turnovers. The Bulldogs hadn’t scored a basket in more than six minutes until sophomore center JaTyre Carter’s tip-in with 2:18 remaining to give his team a 36-35 lead.
That triggered a 7-2 closing kick from the Bulldogs, who led 39-35 on Samson Westley’s lay-in after a turnover and Jarrell Dominique’s free throw with 34.5 seconds left.
Two free throws from D.J. Marshall, who finished with nine points, pulled Plaquemine to within 39-37 with 25.9 seconds but the Green Devils, who shot 26 percent for the game, missed potential tying field goals with 22.8 and 11.6 seconds, respectively.
“We wanted to win this game really bad because they’re our parish rivals,” Washington said.
“It’s about our reputation and going into the playoffs strong. I’m glad coach set this game up.”