After a somewhat sluggish start the Lincoln Preparatory School Panthers roared away in the fourth quarter to earn a 52-43 Class 1A boys basketball playoff win over Homer Tuesday at Scotty Robertson Memorial Gym on the campus of Louisiana Tech University.
It was largely a slow, deliberately paced game that at times seemed to cross a game of chess and a boxing match, with calculated sacrifices, jabs and body blows designed to slowly wear down an opponent.
The plan worked for the fourth-seeded Panthers, who started slowly before gradually heating up. Head coach Antonio Hudson pointed to the first round bye and his team not having played in a while.
“I think that two-and-a-half weeks off kind of hurt us,” Hudson said. “I guess that’s something I have to do better with scheduling-wise. Our last game was Feb. 15, and with us having the first-round bye, we’ve had two-and-a-half weeks off and it kind of showed.
“But you have to give props to Homer. They came out and played pretty hard and had a good game plan. We were just blessed to pull it off.”
Lincoln Prep trailed early before taking its first lead of the night at 12-11 on a layup by D’Mitry Payne with only 48 seconds left in the opening stanza.
The Panthers led 14-13 at the end of the period, and built its largest lead of the first half with only 46 seconds left in the second quarter at 26-17, which was the score at halftime.
But playing a District 1-1A foe in 13th-seeded Homer, Hudson knew the Pelicans would be poised to make a second half run.
“That’s always tough,” Hudson said of facing a district opponent. “That’s the first thing that jumped out at me when I looked at the bracket. We ended up with a district opponent tonight and then the next game will be against another team we played this season. The hard thing is to make sure our boys are psyched up and put those early games in the past and focus on the one we’ve got to play right now.”’
It didn’t take long for the Pelicans to battle back as they tied the game at 26-26 at the 4:50 mark of the third quarter.
Lincoln Prep pushed its lead to 38-34 heading into the fourth quarter on a shot from underneath the basket by JaKyren Montgomery off a pass from Payne with 38 seconds remaining in the stanza.
“Homer’s game plan was to slow it down,” Hudson said. “So they kind of packed it in and tried to force us to shoot jumpers. I just kept telling them to be patient and make sure we get what we want out of it — don’t let them dictate what we do.”
The Panthers shuffled in and out of a defensive trap throughout the game and especially early in the third quarter trying to keep the Pelicans off balance.
“A lot of teams know that we do that and practice for our trap,” Hudson said. “They’re expecting it, so we’ve been trying to pick and choose when we do it. Plus we tend to get in foul trouble when we do it as well. So we just watch it a little bit and try to pick the right times to do it. We did it pretty well and rotated with it, and that’s a plus.”
Lincoln Prep scored the first points of the fourth quarter on a pair of free throws by Montgomery and later used an 8-0 run on steal and layup by Braylin Mayfield, a pair of putbacks by Emmanuel Bryant and a layup by Brandon Heard that put the Panthers on top 50-38 with 1:32 remaining.
The Panthers made four of five three throws the rest of the way to move on to the quarterfinals round.
“For the last month we’ve been shooting free throws at the end of practice, and the team can’t leave until we the whole team shoots at least 70 percent from the line,” Hudson said. “Let’s just say some of those practices have been longer than expected. But I guess that kind of work paid off for us tonight.”
Payne led the Panthers with 20 points while adding four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Mayfield added a double-double for Lincoln Prep with 13 points and 13 rebounds along with two blocked shots, two assists and a steal.
Heard and Bryant chipped in with six points each for the Panthers, with Heard also recording six assists, three steals and two rebounds and Bryant pulling down five rebounds.
Lincoln Prep hosts fifth-seeded Tensas at Scotty Robinson Memorial Gym at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The Panthers and Tensas faced off on Dec. 16 with Lincoln Prep winning by the score of 59-37.
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