GRAY – The Slidell Tigers gave the H.L. Bourgeois boys basketball team a late scare on Tuesday night in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs, but the Braves were able to gather themselves in time to advance to the quarterfinals.
The No. 11 Tigers made a serious run at the No. 6 Braves in the final 2 minutes of the game only to see H.L. Bourgeois escape with a 59-56 victory.
The Braves (25-10 overall) will now play No. 3 Landry-Walker (26-6 overall) on Friday night in New Orleans in the quarterfinals with a berth in the Boys Marsh Madness Tournament and the state semifinals at Burton Coliseum on the McNeese State University campus in Lake Charles on the line.
Against Slidell (24-10 overall) the Braves held a 57-49 lead with 2:17 left following a putback by Divine Martin.
A Tigers free throw cut the lead by one, but then back-to-back steals and layups by Slidell cut that H.L. Bourgeois lead to 57-54 with 1:11 to play.
After a missed front end of a one-and-one free throw by the Braves, Harlan Dixon scored at the rim to trim the H.L. Bourgeois lead to 57-56 with 30.1 seconds left.
Martin then made one free throw for the Braves with 16.5 seconds to go before a Tigers player was called for a turnover after he caught a pass while standing on the out-of-bounds line marking the sideline.
Martin, who Braves coach Andrew Caillouet praised for his energy level during the game, later made another free throw and a Tigers desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer did not draw rim, allowing the Braves to advance.
“It was a great effort by our guys and we fought hard throughout the game and almost completed the comeback,” Slidell coach Dale Chimento said. “H.L. Bourgeois is well coached and play together really well. They made the plays at the right time. If we could have converted a few more chip-shot layups under the basket that would have really helped us and getting into some early foul trouble hurt us. But credit them. They are a really good ball club.”
H.L. Bourgeois got 20 points from A.J. Rainey Jr., 14 points (seven early in the fourth quarter) from Deondre Buggage, 11 points from Martin and 10 points from Anthony Ruffin Jr.
“It was a tough playoff game. Slidell is a nice team,” Rainey said. “We locked down on defense. It was a good team win.”
Slidell got 14 points from Edmond Thomas, 13 points from Trey Davis and 13 points from Kolby Warren.
The Tigers led 17-15 after the first quarter, but the Braves closed the second quarter on 15-4 run for a 36-27 halftime advantage.
“Getting their bigs in some foul trouble early was the difference in the first half,” Caillouet said. “Once we settled in, that was the ball game. If we take better care of the ball, make free throws and rebound better, we pull away down the stretch. We also gave up too much baseline on defense. But we played with a lot of focus and A.J. Rainey stepped up and committed to playing defense. When he commits to playing defense, we commit to playing defense.”
Slidell cut into the Braves lead in the third quarter and H.L. Bourgeois had to settle for a 46-44 advantage heading in the fourth quarter.
The Braves led by as much as eight points late before the Tigers charged back in the final 2 minutes.
Rainey and Caillouet each praised the rambunctious Braves crowd for helping the team hold on for the win.
“They were clutch,” Rainey said. “We need that every night, especially on the road Friday. We are going to need our fans to follow us.”
“I thought the crowd was incredible,” Caillouet said. “I thought that was one of the main reasons we won the game. My head is split open because I had to scream all night because it was so loud in the gym. But as a coach and being at home, you will take that. The crowd was our sixth man and did a great job.”