Late defensive stand sends Simsboro to district title

Choudrant coach Ryan Smith reacts to a late turnover in the Aggies 44-42 loss to Simsboro Saturday night. (photo by T. Scott Boatright)

By T. Scott Boatright

CADEVILLE — Simsboro’s decade-long streak of District 2-B boys championship remains intact after a pair of late steals and layups proved to be the difference in Saturday’s showdown against Choudrant at the West Ouachita Parish High School gym.

The Tigers’ Earnest Chatman scored four of his game-best 20 points in the final minute to propel Simsboro over Choudrant 44-42 as SHS earned its 11th consecutive district title.

Chatman’s steal and wide-open layup with 58 seconds remaining tied the game at 42-42. Just moments later the Tigers did it again, this time with Trumarion Smith stealing a ball from the Aggies and firing it to Chatman, who sprinted to the basket and finger-rolled the ball through the nets with 27 seconds left on the clock to put Simsboro on top by two.

On its next possession Choudrant tried to work the ball for an open shot, but a tight defensive effort by the Tigers forced Aggies coach Ryan Smith to call a timeout with 3.6 seconds remaining.

The Aggies never got off a final shot as Simsboro’s defense forced its third straight turnover to escape with the win.

“That was tough, especially with the perspective of how the game went,” Smith said. “It came down to the wire. Having the lead there late and losing — it’s tough. Finishing is something we’ve been talking about and working on, but it didn’t happen today.

“All credit to Simsboro. Man, they played tough and very physical and came away with some defensive plays there when they needed them most.”

Smith said he’d wait to look at video before trying to figure out how the game got away from the Aggies.

“We played another tight game earlier this week (at Caldwell) that came down to the wire that we lost at the end,” Smith said. “So there’s something that’s got to be fixed with that, because those playoff games are close. There’s no such thing as a playoff blowout. We have to win these close ones, especially when we lead late.

“So we’re going to go out and have a great week of practices. You can’t replicate this in practices, but we’re going to take a look at it and try to recreate the best we can and try to learn from it. I believe we have a lot of basketball left. We just have to learn from this.”

Choudrant came out strong to open the contest, building a 13-7 lead by the end of the opening stanza on an inside bucket by Eli Callender with 22 seconds left in the period.

And the Aggies pushed their lead to eight points at 15-8 early in the second quarter on a Parker Batterton layup 25 seconds into the second quarter.

But Sinsboro controlled the final seven-and-a-half minutes of the stanza, going on a 10-2 run that gave the Tigers a 18-17 advantage at halftime.

Both teams traded leads in the third quarter, but after Simsboro went on top 24-23 on Kelip Wright’s jumper at the 4:06 mark of the stanza, Choudrant countered with a 7-0 run to push its lead to 30-24 and held a 33-29 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

The final eight minutes saw four ties and four lead changes, with the Aggies knotting things up at 40-40 on a jumper by Callender with 3:11 remaining before going on top 42-40 on Lawson Stevens’ inside basket with 2:39 remaining.

But that lead wouldn’t hold as Chatman’s final-minute heroics sent the Tigers into celebration-mode heading into next week’s Class B playoffs.

“It was an up-and-down game and we made mistakes, sometimes players took too many shots,” said first-year Tigers coach Randy Carlisle. “But it’s all about how you finish, and in the end we came through.

“You’ve got to give it to these kids. That defense they played in the final two minutes was tough. I don’t know where that was for most of the game, but I sure am glad it was there at the end.”

It was Carlilse’s 29th time in his coaching career to win a district title. 

But he wanted this one for his team.

“That streak was important to them, and it was awesome to see them get it,” Carlisle said. “It’s been a crazy season, but it’s good to be able to say we’re playing our best basketball as we head into the playoffs. It’s good to have that momentum.”

Batterton led the Aggies with 13 points while Lachlan Thompson chipped in with 12.

Smith added 10 points for the Tigers, who also received eight points from Wright.     

Now Choudrant (26-9) and Simsboro (14-17) await their Class B playoff fates. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association is set to announce postseason brackets on Monday.