DENHAM SPRINGS — The transition in head coaches wasn’t the smoothest for the Denham Springs boys basketball team. Football-related injuries also hindered the process.
With a week before the start of District 4-5A play, the Yellow Jackets have melded and mended well.
Denham Springs, which shot 61 percent overall, pulled away midway through the third quarter and used solid free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter for a 67-58 victory over Episcopal on Monday.
“The transition from one coach to another is always hard,” said Denham Springs first-year coach Kevin Caballero, whose team won for the fourth straight time. “We’ve also had some injury problems with some guys coming off the football field. It just takes a little while.”
Senior Torez Kinchen suffered a shoulder injury during football season that cost him eight games in basketball, a contributing factor in Denham Springs’ 1-6 start — a stretch that included four losses by 10 points or less.
Kinchen led Denham Springs (9-11) with a game-high 28 points, including 3-pointers to end the first and second quarters, resulting in a 33-32 halftime lead.
Another football player, Tori Odom, scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half, while standout running back Tyre Goldman scored four points and handed four assists.
“Give Denham credit,” Episcopal coach Chris Beckman Sr. said. “They came out in the third quarter and showed more willingness to want the game and work. They’ve been playing really well. We weren’t up to the challenge.”
The lead changed hands six times in the second quarter, including four times in the last 1:24 on four straight baskets, with Kinchen’s 3-pointer lifting the Yellow Jackets to a one-point lead at halftime.
Episcopal (19-3), which had its 11-game win streak snapped, opened a 39-35 lead when Kevin Tripeaux, who had a team-high 21 points, scored on an inside basket at the 6:49 mark. Chris Beckman Jr. added 18 points, including 16 in the first half.
Kinchen ignited a 13-1 run to end the quarter, draining his fourth 3-pointer and sandwiching a three-point play from Dorsett Washington, with one of his own. Chad Taylor’s putback made it 48-40.
During that stretch, the Knights missed nine consecutive shots and committed six turnovers.
Kinchen extended the run to 15-1 with a driving layup to open the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer from guard Cameron Dumas, who wound up with 14 points, gave Episcopal its first field goal in nine minutes.
The Knights, who shot 33 percent (9 of 27) in the second half and were 4 of 13 from 3-point range, got as close as 52-48 on Tripeaux’s 3-pointer with 6:05 to play.
With Denham Springs keeping Beckman Jr. scoreless in the second half until 26 seconds left, the Yellow Jackets expanded their lead over the final two minutes with 9-of-13 free-throw shooting.
“At 9-11 (record) you have so much ground to make up,” Caballero said. “I told them to play as if this was your last game and leave it all out there.
“I told them I like where our team is right now.”