North Webster erased a double-digit John Curtis lead and nearly lost a late lead themselves, but Wednesday’s contest ended with purple-clad fans storming the home court.
Patriots’ sharp shooters made 11 3-pointers on the night, but attempts by Richard Durant and Kai Morgan missed, the second with five seconds remaining before No. 17 North Webster stretched the lead to the final 81-76 win against the No. 1 Patriots.
“One team, one dream,” said senior Dontavious Smith as Knights’ students and fans lingered on the court to savor the Class 3A second-round home win. “We can win a championship.
“We knew we were a great team coming in, but we just had to get to get it together. That’s what this town believes in – one team, one dream.”
North Webster (25-9) will hit the road again when they travel to No. 8 Donaldsonville, who beat No. 24 Northwest 56-48 on the road. A game date or time hadn’t been scheduled by press time. The Knights went to No. 16 Union Parish in the first round for a 61-58 win.
The dream of at least upsetting the No. 1 seed Patriots seemed in focus when the Knights made a 21-12 run to build a 78-70 lead with 1:35 left capped by a Devin White three-point play.
But Durant drained two of his seven 3-pointers as White missed a pair of free throws, and North Webster’s Montavious Smith made one of two free throws to push the Knights’ lead to 79-76 with 25 seconds remaining. Durant (27 points) and Morgan (17 points) then missed their long-range attempts before a Lyntravious Gipson layup capped the win.
Gipson, who scored a game-high 28 points, played a huge role in the Knights’ second-half comeback.
Down 42-35 early in the third quarter, Gipson scored 11 straight Knights’ points on his personal 11-2 run to give North Webster a 46-44 lead.
“Coach (Rodney Thrash) told us not to give up, to keep fighting,” Gipson said. “We had to keep pushing, and I just felt like I had to keep shooting.
“We believe we should have been a higher-ranked team coming in, but we believe we can beat anybody in the state.”
The lead switched hands seven times from mid-third quarter to the early fourth quarter, but a Willie Lee (12 points) bucket and a Montavious Smith (16 points) three-point play handed the Knights the lead for good at 62-58.
Curtis’ Malachi Dupre (10 points) picked up the defensive foul and then was whistled for a charge on the next possession (his fifth foul). Dupre and guard Dante Jones fouled out, but the Patriots’ posts were plagued with foul trouble as well throughout the game.
The Knights made 12-of-24 free throws in the fourth quarter and 21-of-36 in the game to pad their lead. That included three technical fouls on Curtis (20-6) throughout the game. Curtis 15-of-24 from the line.
Curtis coach Mike Krajcer declined comment about officiating, but he said the Patriots’ season won’t be defined with Wednesday’s loss.
“We won’t dwell on this one tonight … we had a great season,” said Krajcer, who was visibly upset at officials in the second half. “We didn’t put (the ball) in enough.
“We’re the best team in the state, just sometimes you lay an egg.”
After North Webster scored the game’s first seven points, which included two of Dontavious Smith’s five blocks, Curtis scored 12 straight points.
Up 17-14, Curtis went a 17-4 run to lead 34-18, which included eight Morgan points.
But the Knights ended the half on a 13-5 run to slice Curtis’ edge to 39-31, and coach Rodney Thrash said several halftime adjustments led to continued success in the second half.
“We came out with emotion, and they thought they could play 32 minutes with emotion, but we had to go back to what got us here,” Thrash said. “We played good, solid defense, and the boys absolutely laid it all the line, and it took every ounce of energy we had.
“We had to break up some (verbal) fights at halftime (among our team), but that spurred on our halftime talk. We’ve said this whole season that the only team that could beat us is ourselves … and we just settled down and played.”