PLAQUEMINE — The hurdle that ended Plaquemine High School’s season a year ago turned into a potential springboard this time around.
“We talked about being at the point we were last year,” Plaquemine coach Donald Ray Johnson said. “We weren’t going to be satisfied with getting the same result. These guys are hungry and accepted the challenge.”
Balanced scoring was just part of the reason No. 4 Plaquemine turned away a determined effort Tuesday from No. 13 St. Thomas More in a 52-40 Class 4A regional playoff victory.
Seniors DJ Marshall and reserve forward C.J.Young each scored 13 points with senior guards Charleston Spears and Cameron Garner adding nine apiece.
Plaquemine (25-6) won for the 10th time in its past 11 games. A year after exiting the playoffs in the regional round, the Green Devils travel to face No. 12 McDonogh 35, a 64-50 winner over Washington Marion, in Friday’s quarterfinal round.
“That’s how we’ve been playing all year,” Johnson said. “Although DJ’s our guy, we’ve got seven other guys that can do just as well. We understand our strength, and that’s feeding off of him.”
Defense and rebounding were also of paramount importance to Plaquemine’s cause, limiting STM (25-10) to 30.2 percent shooting and forcing the Cougars into five of their 12 turnovers during the fourth quarter.
“We couldn’t score,” STM coach Danny Broussard, whose team was attempting to reach the Top 28 tournament for the third straight year. “We had a hard time rebounding and at times I thought we did a good job of blocking out. It was a physical game and that wasn’t to our advantage.”
STM overcame a slow start to lead 16-11 after the first quarter on the strength of a pair of 3-pointers from reserve Deuce Wallace, who finished with 10 points. The Cougars built a 19-13 lead with 4:42 left before halftime.
Plaquemine missed 12 of its first 13 shots in the quarter before Marshall ignited a 9-1 run over the final 1:34 with five straight points. Reserve guard Jamie Lawless scored his only points of the game — a 15-footer with 1.3 seconds left — for a 22-20 lead.
“We put Lawless in because he’s a deadly shooter,” Johnson said. “We told him that basket gave us momentum going into the third quarter. We fed off of that.
“It was the only two points he had, but that sparked us in the third quarter.”
Plaquemine went on a pair of runs in each of the third and fourth quarters to gain separation and pull away down the stretch.
The Green Devils, who shot 55 percent in the second half and outscored the Cougars 30-20, broke a 26-26 tie midway through the third quarter with a 10-0 run that Garner sparked with a pair of 3-pointers, sandwiched around a basket from Marshall on a power move in the lane.
STM remained within five points on three occasions in the fourth quarter, the latter at 43-38 on a drive by Wallace with 3:30 left, until Plaquemine answered with a 9-2 surge — capped by Marshall’s fastbreak dunk with just over a minute left.
“Give them credit. They played tremendous,” Broussard said.“They’re a very unselfish team. They’re well coached.
“It’s no shame losing to that team.”