No. 8 Covenant Christian Academy and No. 9 Central Catholic battled as closely as their rankings during Tuesday’s Division IV second-round boys basketball playoffs at Vandebilt Catholic High School in Houma.
Eagles forward Elijah Swan made a 3-pointer with 3:30 remaining to give Central Catholic the lead for good, and they held on for a 47-40 victory
Central Catholic will face No. 1 Lafayette Christian in the quarterfinals later this week.
“I’ll never stop being proud of them. They played their hearts out. They played hard all night long,” CCA coach Troy Jackson said. “We just had untimely turnovers and some shots that didn’t fall at the end. We had a big three that was called back for traveling. That’s the way it is sometimes.”
“I knew it was going to come down to a couple of stops and a couple of free throws. We’ve lost that game 10 times this year, so to go it in a playoff game is huge,” Eagles coach Ree Case said. “We played some 3-2 zone. We got good sops in man-to-man. We haven’t made free throws all season, and we made six in a row to end the game.”
Anthony Ruffin and Dakari Johnson led Covenant Christian with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Brooks Thomas headed Central Catholic with 15 points, followed by Swan with 14 and DJ Lewis with 10.
Tied at 34 with 6:10 left in the fourth quarter on a Thomas 3-pointer, Covenant Christian (19-11 overall) got four straight points from Ruffin on free throws and a floater in the lane to go up 38-34.
Central Catholic (16-14) answered with seven consecutive points, including a short jumper from Swan and his go-ahead three, for a 41-38 lead with 1:06 remaining.
Johnson sank a floater with 57 seconds left to get the Lions within a point. The Eagles broke Covenant Christian’s backcourt press, and Lewis tipped-in an offensive rebound. Swan and Thomas each made a pair of free throws to seal the win.
“We caused some turnovers and got them razzled with the press in the second half going into halftime,” Jackson said. “We missed our rotation once, and that gave up a free pass. At this point in the season, you can’t forget where you got to be. We also put a lot a pressure on ourselves, and the boys just came up a little short of their shots.”
“I didn’t think we shot the ball well against the zone, but we made two big threes in the fourth quarter, Case said. “We turned the ball against the press, but guys stepped up to make plays. We made shots when we needed to hit them.”
Covenant Christian sprinted to an early 7-2 lead on a Devante Johnson layup and a Tre’veon Sauceberry corner 3-pointer.
Central Catholic (16-14) quickly got five straight points form Thomas on a put back and a 3-poiner from the wing to tie the game.
The Lions went an 11-6 burst, including corner 3-pointers from Justin Jackson and Ruffin, while Johnson was fouled on a left-handed layup, to take a 18-13 lead early in the second quarter.
The Eagles responded with eight unanswered points. Thomas made four straight free throws, then after Central Catholic blocked consecutive Lions layup attempts, Swan got two uncontested layups for a 21-18 lead.
The Lions replied with Ruffin nailing a short jumper and Dakari Johnson driving to the basket on a layup for a 24-23 halftime advantage.
“Offensively, we were still a little stagnant, but we found some good shots,” Jackson said. “Defensively, I thought we were doing job, but we missed some assignments where we could have stretched out the lead. Every time we had the lead, we would make an untimely mistakes. We didn’t the way to we needed to and that kept them close.
After Ruffin opened the third quarter with a long jumper, the Eagles scored six straight on a Swan put back and a pair of Lewis layups.
The Lions earned the final five points of the quarter on a Johnson floater and a Jackson corner three to lead 31-29 entering the fourth quarter.
The Lions will lose four starters from this year’s squad: Devante Johnson, Dakari Johnson, Tre’veon Sauceberry and Justin Jackson. Still, this was a special season for Lions basketball.
“This season, I think a lot of people underestimated us, the talent we have and the fight we have,” Coach Jackson said. “We played some of the bigger schools and been in games. We beat some of them, went to overtime with some of them. We’re not a deep team, but I’ve five, six, seven guys that can run with you all night long.
DIVISION IV SECOND ROUND
NO. 10 HOUMA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL 54, NO. 7 OPELOUSAS CATHOLIC 49 (at Opelousas, Division IV second round playoff game)
Score by quarter: Opelousas Catholic led 16-11 after the first quarter, Houma Christian led 28-25 at halftime and Houma Christian led 36-35 after the third quarter.
Statistical leaders: Houma Christian – Trent Washington (20 points), Trey Washington (14 points), Je’Corie Ward (10 points)
Quote from Houma Christian coach Freddie Frye: “They came and scouted us when we played Hanson (in the first round) and they were well prepared. They really packed it in. It was a defensive battle, but our team was resilient on the road. We made the key plays and got the key rebounds. We got a really big 3-pointer from Wes (Spry) and those were the difference makers. We got the shots we wanted and got the rebounds and got some fast-break points we needed to pull away from them.”
Records: Houma Christian (17-9 overall); Opelousas Catholic (19-8 overall)
Note: The Warriors are tentatively scheduled to play St. Mary’s in the D-IV quarterfinals on Saturday in Natchitoches.