LAKE CHARLES — You could call it a basketball version of “Back to the Future.” But the message delivered by third-seeded Southern Lab in its 63-33 victory over Tensas in a Class 1A semifinal game was slightly different.
Yes, one of the state’s traditional powers through the 1990s and 2000 is indeed back. And with just two seniors, Southern Lab showed it has a bright future at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 tournament Thursday night.
“The way we came out focused and ready to play. … I was really impressed with our first group,” SLHS coach Devan Clark said. “I know we all watch NBA. But this is basketball in its purest form. Your success comes from defending and team. Sometimes your jump shot isn’t going to fall. When these guys go aggressively to the rim and are making plays, it looks a whole lot better for us.”
Tyreon Payne scored a game-high 18 points for Southern Lab (26-7), which advances to the 1A title game for the first time since 2011. SLHS meets the Lafayette Christian-Arcadia winner at 2 p.m. Saturday at Burton Coliseum.
Dexter Dennis added 15 points and eight rebounds as the Kittens made 61.1 percent of their shots from the field.
The SLHS defense limited Tensas (24-10) to 27.9 percent shooting. Grant Jackson scored a team-high 13 points and had seven rebounds.
The Panthers’ top scorer, Lamonte Bass, sat out most of the third quarter in foul trouble and finished with seven points, 11 under his average.
“At first, everything looked to be open for us out there,” Dennis said.
“There were times when we didn’t make smart decisions. We had a little slump, but we picked it up.”
If the Kittens had any early-jitters, it didn’t show. Tensas scored two of the first three baskets, but after that is was all Southern Lab. The Kittens closed the quarter with a 16-1 run that included plenty of fast breaks.
The taller SLHS players got their arms in the passing lanes and forced six first quarter turnovers that almost always led to easy baskets.
Southern Lab made 8 of 9 first-quarter shots. Dennis dunked the ball just before the buzzer to send SLHS into the second quarter with a 21-5 lead.
The Kittens pushed their lead to 19 points in the second quarter. But Tensas made 10-2 run. Jackson’s 3-pointer with 48 seconds left made it 29-18. Southern Lab led 33-18 at halftime.
Tensas cut Southern Lab’s lead to nine in the third quarter. A free throw by Jackson made it 35-26 with 3:24 left. The Kittens didn’t panic. A layup by Dennis sent SLHS into the fourth quarter with a 41-26 lead they would continue to build on.
“We didn’t defend like I thought we would,” Tensas coach Charlie Williams said. “They were the better team. They did what they do best: take care of the basketball, sit back in the zone and beat you to death.”