LAKE CHARLES — Hollywood’s best screenwriters could hardly have scripted Thursday’s Class 4A semifinal better.
No. 4 seed Bossier faced personal tragedy, community struggles with a natural disaster, and a sizeable second-half deficit against 4A’s No. 1 seed, St. Thomas More. The Bearkats came together, locked down defensively and overcame all that adversity for an incredible 49-48 victory thanks to a late game-winner from the perfect hero, Antonio Davis.
Just four days ago, the junior forward wasn’t even sure whether he’d play in his first Top 28 following the tragic, unexpected death off his 19-year-old sister, Kenyoua. A tough zone defense limited Davis for much of the game, but he came through when it mattered most for his second field goal to put Bossier ahead with just 11 seconds left.
“We wanted to win for her and my coaching staff and the seniors,” Davis said. “I had to step up for them. It wasn’t about me. It was about everybody.”
That included four to five buses of Bossier fans who couldn’t make the trip due to flooding that caused closures on I-49, Highway 171, and several other roads. Veteran coach Jeremiah Williams made sure to acknowledge those people at the beginning of his postgame press conference, as well as the many who have been displaced from their homes during the ongoing flood.
Whether it was simply the pressure of playing in the Top 28 or a result of a much smaller than expected cheering section, Williams said his team came out a little nervous as they shot just 35 percent from the field in the first half. St. Thomas More took advantage by jumping out to an early lead, which it extended to nine early in the third quarter.
The tide began to turn when Quatavious Capers hit a 3-pointer to cap off a 7-2 run and cut the deficit to just two. Bossier’s senior guards hit all eight of its 3s, including shots on back-to-back possessions from Tyrese English and Larry Robinson III late in the game after Jonathan Cisse hit one of his own to put STM ahead 45-41.
“We called glass on that one,” Williams said, joking about English’s 3 from the top of the arc. “I thought that they had a little momentum with that and kind of broke our back, but that three brought us right back in it.”
STM hit three of four free throws on the next two possessions to go back ahead by one, and coach Danny Broussard elected to trust his man-to-man defense. Imposing 6-foot-7 senior Will Vincent, who battled the flu and scored just two points in 17 minutes, matched up against Davis.
“Give that team some credit,” Broussard said. “That’s a pretty good coaching move, giving it to (Davis) right there and going one-on-one.”
It’s nothing new for the Bearkats, who often utilize the big 6-foot-4 forward’s versatility to isolate him against less athletic opponents. Vincent gave up plenty of ground and still couldn’t stop Davis as he spun into the lane and got a short turnaround jumper to crawl over the rim.
“We work on post moves every day, so I got so many,” Davis said, smiling. “(Williams) has been in practice pushing us around and stuff so I’ve got to do something. I knew when I kind of went to the left and he shaded over, I knew I had to hit a counter-move, as (Williams) says.”
Bossier’s defense took care of the rest, as it so often does. Tyrese English knocked the ball away near midcourt to cause a mad scramble, and Robinson eventually picked it up just before time expired.
Williams credited his smaller lineup of guards for holding St. Thomas More to just 17 points in the second half after it scored 18 in the second quarter alone. Although Robinson and English both played around 30 of the game’s 32 minutes, a constant rotation of other Bearkats kept them looking fresher down the stretch.
Most of the Bearkats will stay in Lake Charles and won’t even have to miss any classes, since Bossier Parish closed all classes for Friday, the third straight day. But Davis plans to go back home for his older sister’s funeral before returning Saturday night to play the state title game vs. No. 2 seed Marion-Washington.