Lincoln Prep advances to Marsh Madness

by T. Scott Boatright

They’re back.

Two years after falling to North Central in the Class B Louisiana Boys Championship Game, the Lincoln Preparatory School Panthers roared back into Marsh Madness and the Top 28 tourney by defeating Tensas 61-45 at Scotty Robertson Memorial Gym on the Louisiana Tech University Campus.

Tensas kept things tight in the opening stanza, with the Panthers holding an 11-7 advantage after the first eight minutes of play.

Slowly but surely the fourth-seeded Panthers started taking control in the second quarter, going on a 6-0 run in the final 42 seconds  to build their biggest lead of the game at that point with a 12-point 28-16 advantage at intermission.

Fifth-seeded Tensas made a move late in the third quarter, cutting the Lincoln Prep lead to as few as five points at 45-40 at the 1:14 mark of the stanza on four straight points (an NBA-length  3-pointer and a free throw) from senior point guard Prentice Britton.

After Lincoln Prep’s Dmitry Payne hit a pair of free throws to push the Panthers back out to a seven-point lead at 47-40 with 1:00 left in the period, Britton scored on a layup off of his own steal to cut the deficit back down to five at 47-42 with 42 seconds remaining in the quarter.

But Lincoln Prep countered with four straight points to close out the stanza and take a 51-42 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

While the Panthers could have taken complete control early in the final eight minutes, that didn’t happen as they struggled at the free-throw line. But Payne took control on the court, giving the Panthers their biggest lead of the game at that point on a layup with 1:25 left on the clock that put Lincoln Prep up 60-45.

Payne finished with 24 points on the night to lead the Panthers, who now stand at 23-9 on the year.

“The thing he does — this kid is going to be a Louisiana all-star in basketball or football three times over the course of one year — that says a lot about the talent that he has,” Hudson said. “It’s not really anything that we’ve done since we got him as a freshman. All we’ve had to do is kind of channel him in the right direction. He’s been here before. He played in a state championship game. He’s played in a third-round game. And that’s also a positive — when you have a player who’s been there and knows how to handle it.”

Payne’s offensive play was helped by the return of point guard Brandon Heard, who left the game early on but bounced back strong directing the Lincoln Prep offense in the second half. 

“That kind of play and him hanging in there shows how he’s contributed  to our success this year,” Hudson said about Heard. “He had a cut on his hand, got it taped up, put on a clean jersey and got back in there and played tough in the second half. His play has allowed us to have Payne play off the ball, so he doesn’t have to do as much. Last year Payne had to handle the ball, had to defend the opponent’s best player, had to rebound and do everything. But with Brandon in there, it takes the pressure off of Payne and gives him the freedom to do more. And it helps save his legs and energy.”

Heard finished with three points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal for the Panthers.

Bralyn Mayfield added 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a steal for Lincoln Prep, which also received seven points, seven boards, two steals and an assist from Ja’kyren Montgomery.

Emanuel Bryant and Ta’Rell Simmons added six points each for the Panthers, with Montgomery also recording four rebounds, a steal and an assist while Simmons contributed three rebounds and a steal.

Hudson said being able to play in front of a sizable home crowd the last two playoff games after not having a home court this season was something special that gave added excitement and energy to his team. 

“It feels good,” Hudson said. “(Assistant coach LeShaun Johnson) and I were talking the other day just about what we’ve been through at the school. For the success we’ve had as a staff and as a program, is something. We’ve pretty much played without a home court this season.

“If you know anything about high school basketball in Grambling, the fan base is what kind of takes us over the top. Playing in an environment like tonight, where there’s room for our fans and we get that extra support, that means something. That’s key to us. And it’s been that way for a long time.”

Lincoln Prep moves on to face a familiar foe — top-seeded North Central, the team that beat the Panthers in the 2020 title game — next week in semifinals play at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.


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