DENHAM SPRINGS — Denham Springs had already knocked off a higher seed on the road and everything was in place with a rowdy home crowd wearing “Beat Byrd” shirts.
Seventh-seeded C.E. Byrd of Shreveport had other plans and used its speed and transition game to outrun No. 23 Denham Springs 80-65 Tuesday night in a Class 5A boys basketball regional playoff game.
Byrd advances to the quarterfinals for the first time since winning the state title in 1992. It was the final game for Denham Springs coach Wynn Wingate, who is retiring from coaching after 10 seasons.
“We didn’t do a good job of getting back all night,” said Wingate. “ (The Yellow Jackers) were a lot faster than any team we played this year. We’re usually the faster team. That was a whole different level there.
“I’m hurting for my guys right now because we had a really good season. We fought hard all year. This is bittersweet. The sweet part was to see the crowd here. It was a true playoff environment.”
Byrd (25-5) scored at least 20 points in three quarters, while Denham (23-9) tallied 20 points (third quarter) just once. In that third quarter, DSHS pulled within two points, 37-35, after a long 3-pointer by Torez Kinchen off an assist by Altoris Odom. Byrd scored the next nine points, including three layups.
Kinchen, who had a game-high 27 points, hit six 3-pointers. The Yellow Jackets were 3 of 18 on 3-pointers in the first half.
Byrd had a balanced scoring attack. Chad Lott, a 6-3 senior and one of Byrd’s faster players, had 20, Montrey Thomas had 19, Kory Ashley had 17 and Phillip Stewart had 10.
For Denham, Tuwain Starks added 17, 6-4 senior Zach Davidson 11 and Odom eight points. Davidson had a nice slam in the first half and was an active rebounder.
“We were just happy to get the win,” Byrd coach Rusty Johnson said. “Denham’s fans were great. A lot of teams in our district run like this. We have some good ballhandlers.”
Byrd forced the pace with its full-court press.
Byrd led by as many as 12 points in the first half. Davidson and Kinchen hit 3-pointers in the second quarter and Kinchen closed the half with a powerful baseline drive and basket to cut the Byrd lead to 34-28.
Odom had two strong drives early in the third quarter before Kinchen hit the first of four 3-pointers in the period. Denham had six turnovers in the third quarter that Byrd converted into eight points.
“When Denham went on a run, I told my guys to be more patient on offense,” Johnson said. “I thought we were rushing our shots then.”
Denham twice pulled within four points in the fourth quarter. Starks hit two free throws with 5:21 remaining to cut the deficit to 63-59. Byrd went on a 17-6 run from there, and Kinchen provided the rest of the DSHS offense with three driving layups.