When a game goes to overtime, fans affectionately refer to it as “bonus basketball.”
So what happens when two sets of boys teams with their sights set on deep playoff runs and district titles meet in mid-January?
Call it a playoff primer for Baton Rouge in 2015.
“We’ve been the favorite in just about every game we’ve played this year,” Port Allen High coach Brandon Ricard said. “This will be one time for sure when we won’t be.
“That should free us up to just play. The gym was packed Tuesday at Brusly, and I think we’ll have more people at our gym. It will be like a playoff game.”
Port Allen (15-3, 3-0) hosts defending Class 3A state champion University High (17-2, 3-0) for a crucial District 7-3A game. Episcopal (16-2, 1-0) travels to Dunham (11-8, 2-0) for a District 6-2A game that is just as pivotal. Varsity game times for both are set for about 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The two games help highlight a busy Friday schedule that also includes a key game in District 4-5A: Scotlandville (18-4, 3-0) at Denham Springs (16-5, 2-1).
“This is one of those games that’s great for both teams,” Episcopal coach Chris Beckman said. “You’ll have a large crowd and a playoff atmosphere, which is something that’s going to help both of us.
“We have a lot of respect for Dunham and the things Jonathan (Pixley) does as a coach. Their record is deceptive because they were without some guys early because of injuries and the football playoffs. They’re playing very well now, and Chase Day gives them a physical presence has been important.”
Pixley rated Episcopal as the preseason favorite, though his Tigers didn’t lose a league game en route to the 6-2A title a year ago. Guards Spencer Kleinpeter and Chris Beckman Jr. lead EHS. The 6-foot Kleinpeter averages 18.7 points per game, while Beckman (6-1) adds 15.5 points and 6.5 assists. Kevin Tripeau (6-3) contributes 11.1 points per game.
Leviticus Bradley, Dunham’s 6-2 guard, ranks among area scoring leaders with a 21.8 average. Jyron Walker (5-10) is at 11.8 points per game, while Day (6-2) averages nine points and 10.5 rebounds for the Tigers, who have won six straight.
The individual matchups for the Port Allen-University are very compelling. U-High’s tall junior-laden team features a lineup that can go nine players deep. Wayde Sims (6-6) averages 17.8 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, while 6-6 Jalen Johnson (14.1 ppg) and 6-5 DJ White (11.8) all average in double figures.
Point guard Skylar Mays (6-3) and 6-7 senior post player Maxwell Starwood, a Tulane commitment, also help power the Cubs, who haven’t lost a game to a Louisiana opponent this season.
Port Allen is led by 6-8 Ishmael Lane, a Northwestern State signee, who averages 18 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5 blocks per game. Jordan Morgan (16.0 ppg) and Nigel Allen (15.0 ppg) are other leaders for the Pelicans.
“It looks like Port Allen is playing well together,” University coach Joe Spencer said. “The Lane kid has continued to get better since last year. He’s a guy who can block shots and alter them. They’ve moved Nigel Allen to the point, which has worked well.
“They’re not as tall as they were last year, but they have several guys who care capable of doing good things. They’re very athletic.”
Ask the coaches what the deciding factor will be and you get a variety of answers. Ricard said his team has to handle the atmosphere. Spencer cites defense, while Episcopal’s Beckman mentions free-throw shooting and shooting percentages. Pixley said limiting scoring chances for Episcopal’s Kleinpeter and Beckman will be decisive.
“This is one group that has really bought into what we’re doing,” Pixley said. “They play as hard for us and for each other as any group I’ve ever had. That won’t guarantee a win, but I’ll take the effort.”