PORT ALLEN — Maybe it was inevitable that Peabody’s powerful Warhorses, the No. 1 seed in Class 3A, would eventually wear down Port Allen, giving the Pels a season-ending loss in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. After all, the visitors had a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Cedric Russell at the end of the first quarter, got a last second tip-in by Kevin Norman at the end of the second and shot an amazing 27 of 30 from the free-throw line.
They won 70-59 to punch their ticket for next week’s semifinals, but not until they turned back a frantic rally by Port Allen (20-12) that cut a 16-point lead to seven with 28 seconds left in the game.
Peabody closed with a 6-2 run on two layups and their final two free throws.
“My team did the things they had to do to win,” Peabody coach Charles Smith said. “It was a hard-fought game. Port Allen tried to protect their turf. We tried to come in and take it from them, and it was a great game for the fans.”
Picking a standout for Peabody (34-1) would require mentioning everyone who played. Jacoby Ross made 12 of 13 free throws and led the Warhorses in scoring with 21 points. Norman had 16 points and was a terror on the boards. Russell finished with 16 point, including two 3-pointers and 15 points in the first half. James Sibley had nine points and held Port Allen’s offensive leader, Nigel Allen to 12 points.
“We’re a total team,” Smith said. “We’ve been doing that all year. Every game, somebody steps up. Tonight was total team effort on defense and our offense stepped up.”
Port Allen coach Brandon Ricard bemoaned his team’s slow start.
“We played a lot of one-on-one in the first half, and that’s not how we play,” he said. “We started playing together and played some defense and we actually got back in the game.
“It was an intense game, but it was like a district game for us. U-High, Brusly, Parkview — we’ve been seeing that all year.
“I’m just proud of my kids. No one gave us a chance to even reach the quarters, and we’re here for the third straight year,” he said.
Senior co-captain Jordan Morgan led the Pelicans’ comeback with a blazing 17-point fourth quarter and finished with 21 points. Crandal Jackson matched Allen with 12, and Andre Williams had 11.
Peabody treated the Port Allen gym like their home court from the beginning, making four 3-pointers and making 9 of 9 from the free throw line in the first half. Their hour-long shoot-around before the game got them acclimated, and they managed to solve a tough Port Allen defense for a 31-19 halftime lead.
“That’s our routine,” Smith said. “We just like to get used to the atmosphere.”
The Pels, on the other hand, had trouble finding an outside touch until the fourth quarter, missing several open looks. Allen had one 3-pointer in transition, but their other first-half points came mostly on drives into the lane.