Through everything Bossier had to deal with Saturday evening in the Class 3A state semifinals, there was an overwhelming sense of somehow, someway the Bearkats would extend their streak of state championship game appearances.
That belief remained through 20 missed free throws, 23 turnovers and a blown seven-point, fourth-quarter lead. It remained until Carroll’s Ladarrius Gibson tipped away a missed JaCarre Crockett free throw, allowing the fourth-seeded Bulldogs to secure a 53-51 triple-overtime victory and a place in next week’s Class 3A state championship game in Monroe.
“It’s a tough one,” Bossier coach Jeremiah Williams said. “I felt we did everything we should have done to win the ballgame. We missed too many free throws. If we make a decent percentage of free throws, we probably win by 10, but that’s a credit to Carroll.”
Unfortunately for the top-seeded Bearkats (28-4), they made nowhere near a decent percentage from the line.
Bossier suffered through a 7-for-27 performance at the line, including a stretch of nine straight misses spanning the third and fourth quarters.
Those misses sidetracked the momentum Bossier built during a defensively dominant third quarter in which it held Carroll to four points and kept the Bulldogs (25-6) from making a field goal in the final 6:41 of the period.
“It’s been our Achilles’ heel all season,” Williams said of the Bearkats’ struggles at the line.
Bossier’s struggles at the line, coupled with a suddenly hot James Donahue spun the momentum to Carroll’s side in the fourth quarter.
Donahue didn’t score in the first three quarters and left a runner short early in the fourth.
However, the Bulldogs got the offensive rebound and Donahue, a left-hander, hit a fallaway 3-pointer from the left corner, setting in motion a 13-0 Bulldogs run to start the quarter.
“My coach always told me, ‘If you don’t like it, keep going at it,'” said Donahue, who finished with 15 points off the bench. “Keep going at it, and you’re going to get it.”
After the Donahue-sparked surge, the Bulldogs offense went dormant as well, failing to score in the final 3:11 of regulation, allowing Bossier to cobble together its first season-saving run.
A couple of baskets from Tevin Robertson (16 points, 10 rebounds) and two of Bossier’s seven successful free throws brought the game even at 39 with 7.5 seconds to play.
Carroll was called for travelling with 6.3 seconds to play, giving the Bearkats the ball underneath the basket. Deorvion Robinson’s jumper did not fall, forcing the first overtime.
The pattern repated itself in the first two overtimes — Caroll took the lead each time, and Bossier answered with a rally. The Kats had a shot to win it in the first overtime, but missed two 3-pointers on their final possession.
Bossier played the final 12:10 — all three overtimes and the final 10 seconds of regulation — without junior guard Devonte Hall, its best ball-handler and top penetrator. Without Hall, the Bearkats offense didn’t move as smoothly, especially in the closing minutes of each overtime.
“He gives us so many different things,” Williams said. “He can score the basketball. He makes good decisions.
“He rebounds the ball. So not having him in those overtimes hurt a whole bunch. We had guys out there on the floor in position to make plays. We just didn’t make plays.”
In the final overtime, Bossier made a play when Rashard Owens took a deflected inbounds pass at the mid-court line and parlayed it into a powerful two-handed dunk and a 48-46 lead.
Caught in transition, however, Bossier gave the lead right back, as Carroll’s Josh Johnson — who missed two potential game-winning free throws at the end of the second overtime — drove the length of the floor for a game-tying layup.
Gibson delivered the next two buckets, sandwiched around two missed Robertson free throws, to push Carroll’s lead to four.
Owens’ 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left pulled Bossier to within one, but Crockett made the first of his two free throws and Gibson tapped Crockett’s second-shot miss to the corner, denying Bossier a fifth straight championship-game appearance.
“Had I felt like Carroll came in and just blew us out, that would be one thing,” Williams said. “I think that we just didn’t do the things we needed to do to be successful (Saturday) night. That’s what’s so disappointing.”