For most coaches, it would have brought the biggest calm of the night to that point in the game.
But for Westgate coach Oliver Winston, it was when he really got concerned.
With 7:36 left in the fourth period, Sakentrey James nailed a 3-point to give Winston’s Tigers a seemingly commanding 55-39 lead over host Lafayette High in the finals of the 15th Annual LHS Tip-off Classic on Saturday.
“That’s when I got worried,” said Winston of the moment that Westgate captured its biggest lead of the game. “I just knew they had another run in them.”
As crazy as that sounds, his gut feeling proved correct. Lafayette High responded with a 19-4 run to narrow the gap to 59-58 with 2:32 left on a Corey Davis basket, but Winston’s Tigers held on for a 65-61 win to claim the tournament’s title.
“I saw them come back from 16 or 18 down against Acadiana last night, so I knew what they were capable of,” Winston said. “They have some talented kids and I knew they would make another run. I knew they wouldn’t quit.”
There was even more to Winston’s concern than just the scrappy Mighty Lions, though. This tournament was Westgate’s first games of the season and the Tigers had turned up the pressure on LHS in the third quarter, forcing numerous turnovers to build that 16-point lead.
“We’re still not in shape yet,” Winston said. “I really like a lot of what I saw, though. This is a hard-working group. I liked the effort of a Bryson Broussard and my point guard Jamel White played almost the entire game. And Ratliff didn’t get real involved in the scoring, but he kept himself apart of the game and helped out on the boards. You can do a lot of things with a hard-working team.”
Lafayette High’s failed comeback attempt began to end when star guard Davis missed two free throws with 2:18 and then fouled on moments later on a charge in the open court. Eddie Sims halted the LHS run with a basket with 1:49 left and Ratliff’s layup with 37 seconds left all but iced it at 63-58 after LHS missed two more free throws at 1:21.
“The kids showed a lot of character by not giving up after Westgate had jumped out to a big lead,” LHS coach Clifton Brown said. “Missing those free throws really hurt us. Another big key for us was Davis fouling out. He’s our go-to-guy.”
Davis finished with 15 points. Karnel Duncan actually led LHS in scoring on the night with 16 behind a pair of 3-pointers, including one that narrowed Westgate’s lead to 57-52 during the Lions’ big run.
Keandre Broussard and Deontre Jeanlouis also contributed big with 13 points apiece. In fact, it was Jeanlouis that ignited the LHS comeback by scoring eight of the 19 points in the 19-4 run.
“This is his first year in varsity,” Brown said. “He struggled early on, but he’s been working hard in practice and he really did a good job for us tonight. He just doesn’t have the experience. He’s definitely going to be able to help us.”
After the first half was virtually a draw with Westgate leading 30-29 at intermission, Sims had five of Westgate’s 25 points in a 25-10 run in the third quarter. Sims finished with 21 points, followed by James with 17 and Ratliff with 10. Six of White’s 11 points came during that critical run.
“We didn’t like the pace of the first half,” Winston said. “It was beginning to be a grind. So we talked about extending our defense in the second half and picking up the pace. The pace is the third quarter is what we wanted.”