PLAQUEMINE — Tara’s chances at reaching the state playoffs received a boost this week, and the Trojans put forth a playoff-caliber effort Tuesday night at Plaquemine.
The Trojans (8-15, 5-2) were credited with a forfeit win this week over Belaire, a game they lost on the court. Tara turned around and gave District 6-4A leader Plaquemine all it wanted before falling 58-51.
“I thought we were a little tight. We’ve never been in this situation,” Tara coach Marquis Mitchell said. “I told the kids coming in it would be like a playoff game. We’re young, and it was a great learning experience for us.”
Plaquemine (21-4, 7-0) trailed most of the third quarter, but rallied to tie the score at 41 entering the fourth quarter. Herb Thomas scored the first basket in the fourth quarter, and the Green Devils never trailed again.
“We knew that Tara is real competitive. We knew the game would be close,” Plaquemine coach Donald Johnson said. “They’re fighting to get in the playoffs, and we knew they would give us their best shot.”
Plaquemine’s Keandre Randall topped all scorers with 18. C.J. Young had 12, and Thomas finished with 10.
Joshua Hayes and Chris Bell scored 16 points apiece for Tara.
The game’s key point came with less than three minutes to play. Tara trailed 50-43, but Bell made two jumpers to pull the Trojans within three points.
Plaquemine’s A.J. Riley was called for a foul under the basket when Bell made his second jumper giving Tara possession again. This time Bell misfired, and Riley answered at the other end with a second-chance basket.
Plaquemine led 52-47 with 2:18 left, and Tara never got the lead under five again.
Riley’s efforts were part of a strong offensive rebounding night for Plaquemine, which grabbed 18. Tara was limited to eight offensive rebounds.
“That’s what we focus on — getting second chances and making free throws,” Johnson said. “I thought we did a good job of that late in the game.”
Plaquemine put the game away with four free throws in the final minute.
In the first half, the Green Devils were in control most of the way until a late Tara run. Randall and Thomas each hit 3-pointers as Plaquemine led 14-11 after one quarter.
Plaquemine made four of its first five field goals in the second quarter and led 22-17 midway through. But Tara closed with a purpose, and outscored Plaquemine 13-4 to lead 30-26 at halftime.
Raymel De La Cruz and Hayes each made 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds to give Tara its lead at the break.
“We always say basketball is a game of runs,” Johnson said. “That was their run, and we knew we hadn’t made ours yet. Luckily, ours was in the fourth quarter.”