Round 3 for Port Allen, U-High _lowres

Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Port Allen's Nigel Allen goes in for a layup against Northside in the Madison Prep Classic in December.

If defending Class 3A state champion University High and 1A powerhouse Madison Prep weren’t around, Port Allen would likely be at the center of Baton Rouge area’s boys basketball universe.

Port Allen coach Brandon Ricard said the ninth-seeded Pelicans (26-7) are right where they need to be — playing the role of the underdog to District 7-3A rival U-High (30-4) once again.

“They always say to be the best you have to beat the best,” Ricard said. “We’re facing the best, and it’s Round 3. I’m OK with that.

“We’ve been lights out in the playoffs. What I want is for us to play a complete game against them, which we didn’t do the first two times we played them.”

Port Allen hosts University in a 3A quarterfinal game at 6 p.m. Saturday at PAHS. The game was moved to Saturday because U-High played in the girls 3A title game at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament. As the Cubs’ fans ponder the possibility of having back-to-back tourney and title teams, Port Allen seeks a double play of its own.

Port Allen handed U-High a rare loss last season and eventually lost in the quarterfinals. A win would give the Pelicans something no other local 3A team can claim — a win over the dominant Cubs the past two years.

PAHS would also advance to the Boys Top 28 for the first time since 2008.

University High coach Joe Spencer said there’s no way his team will overlook Port Allen, even though the Cubs beat the Pelicans 68-53 and 77-51 in District 7-3A play.

“I think Port Allen is playing their best basketball right now, which is the best time to do it,” Spencer said. “(Ishmael) Lane is a dominant player inside.

“Now their guards are shooting the ball extremely well and physically, the match up with us well. But I also feel like we’re playing extremely well, too. We understand what’s on the line just like they do.”

The inside matchup between the 6-foot-8 Lane and U-High 6-7 duo of Wayde Sims and 6-7 Maxwell Starwood is notable. Lane averages 18.5 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots. Sims averages 17.3 points, while Starwood is at eight points per game.

D.J. White (13.6), Jalen Johnson (12.3) and point guard Skylar Mays (9.2) are U-High’s other leaders.

Nigel Allen (16.0), Jordan Morgan (15.0) and Telson Allen (12) also help lead the Pelicans.

“If we give it our best shot, I’ll be happy to let the chips fall where they may,” Ricard said.