PLAQUEMINE — When point guard and top scorer Devin Bethley sprained an ankle during Monday’s practice, Istrouma boys basketball coach Aaron Pearson could have panicked.
Instead, Pearson and the Indians turned to sophomore backup Derrick Thomas, who scored 12 points, including a 3-pointer and another basket at the start of the fourth quarter. Those plays helped Istrouma pull away for a 54-43 victory over Plaquemine in District 6-4A action Tuesday night.
“When (Thomas) comes in, we pick up right where we left off,” Pearson said. “He’s started a few games this year, and he knows what to do. He’s steady. And so was Tevin Walker.
“But it was a case where we had to get something for everybody. Getting the lead early was big for us.”
Walker scored a game-high 20 points to pace Istrouma (13-6, 4-0). The Indians jumped out to an 8-1 lead to start the game. Plaquemine (14-7, 1-2) got no closer than three points.
The Green Devils rallied to within four points in the third quarter. Devante Marshall scored a team-high 18 points and had nine rebounds for PHS. Louis Conerly added 13, including a couple of 3-pointers for the Green Devils.
“One of the things we talked about was not falling behind,” Plaquemine coach Kirby Loupe said. “When you do that, it’s tough because you have to do so much to get back into the game.
“We got it down to four a few times there in the third quarter, but just couldn’t make that shot to get it closer. At times, I thought we played timid tonight on offense. This group is young and this is one they can learn from.”
Walker scored nine first-half points to help Istrouma gradually build a 26-18 halftime lead. The Indians raced out to their 8-1 lead in the first three minutes of the game. Marquise Kaigler had two early baskets to help fuel that run.
Marshall helped Plaquemine work its way back into contention. Marshall scored three baskets under the goal, including one nifty reverse layup. By the time Marshall made his third layup and an ensuing free throw with 56.5 seconds left, Plaquemine had cut the Istrouma lead to three, at 13-10.
Walker quickly helped Istrouma extend its lead in the second quarter with a 3-pointer and a steal and a layup that made it 18-10. The Indians continued to hold the Green Devils at arm’s length the rest of the half.
There were a couple of anxious moments at the 3:19 mark when Istrouma’s Carvis Kaigler and Plaquemine’s Davon Godchaux got into a shoving match near midcourt. Both players drew technical fouls but were not ejected.
Plaquemine got within five at 21-16 on a layup by Conerly. But Istrouma scored five of the final seven points in the half.
Things got tighter in the third quarter. Marshall and Conerly both hit key shots to rally Plaquemine.
Conerly’s 3-pointer from the left corner made it a 33-29 game at the 3:36 mark.
The third quarter finished with a flurry. Istrouma’s Josh Green hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 8 seconds left. Marshall countered with a 3-pointer from the left corner at the buzzer. Istrouma took a 36-32 lead into the final quarter.
That’s when Thomas erased Plaquemine’s momentum with a quick 3-pointer and another jumper. Carvis Kaigler’s floater in the lane extended Istrouma lead to 43-32 with 5:12 remaining. Plaquemine got no closer than nine the rest of the way.