Panthers win in OT to reach Division IV Boys Select championship

Lincoln Prep defeated Crescent City 62-56 in overtime to advance to the Select School Division IV title game Saturday. (Photo by Josh McDaniel)

By T. Scott Boatright

LAKE CHARLES — Nobody said it was easy.

Lincoln Preparatory School boys basketball coach Antonio Hudson and his Panthers wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lincoln Prep has seemingly thrived on adversity all season long, and the Panthers did it again Thursday in semifinals play of a Division IV Boys Select School showdown inside McNeese State University’s Burton Coliseum as second-seeded Lincoln Prep held on for a 62-56 overtime win over third-seeded Crescent City to advance to Saturday’s championship game.

“We’re not going home, and that’s always a good thing,” Hudson said. “We did what we did all year and just showed resilience as a team. We had chances to close the deal early but one thing that did happen that I was proud of was that my guys didn’t fold. They stepped up big when we needed them to.”

Lincoln Prep led in the final seconds of regulation, but Crescent City’s Dwight Magee popped a 3-pointer with just under a second left to push the game into OT.

And the Pioneers built a three-point advantage early in overtime at 51-48 before the Panthers took control down the stretch, scoring 11 straight points and then using tight defensive play to hold on for the win.

“I have a great staff assembled,” Hudson said. “We’ve got college experience and high school experience and all that. But we try to put them through any game situation they might see when we practice. This week, we haven’t had the best week of practice. But we always try to make them get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s something we’ve done all season long. 

“And that’s one thing about this year’s team – they don’t fold. No matter how bad they get down, no matter how far we have to fight back, no matter how much I fuss, They keep coming. And sometimes that’s not about coaching, that’s about them inside. We’ve got some tough kids at heart. That’s why we’re still playing.”

The Panthers roared out of the gates to open the game, building a quick 7-0 advantage on jumpers from Kobe Mack and Bralyn Mayfield before Steven Burks III pulled up and popped a 3-pointer at the 4:37 mark of the opening stanza.

But the Pioneers battled back, tying things up at 11-11 at the 2:57 mark of the period on a Dwight Magee 3-pointer before the Panthers ended the first quarter with a 13-11 lead after a Kobe Mack layup with 7.9 seconds remaining in the stanza.

Both teams traded leads in a tightly-contested second quarter before Crescent City finished strong, with Magee netting another 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds remaining that sent the teams into the locker rooms with the Pioneers holding a 26-21 halftime lead.

It didn’t take long for Lincoln Prep to flip the scoreboard in the second half as the Panthers scored the first nine points of the third quarter, with Brandon Heard scoring on a putback before tying things up at 26-26 on a 3-pointer by Mack that seemed to ignite the Panthers.

Mayfield was one of those fired up in the third stanza, putting in two layups off of steals, one going from one end of the court to the other before making another off an Alley-Oop pass from Heard that put the Panthers on top 36-32.

Trey Spann’s 3-pointer with 1:56 left in the third quarter sent the Panthers into the fourth-quarter holding a 39-34 lead.

The Panthers built an eight point lead at 42-34 with 4:49 remaining in regulation on a Mayfield free throw, but the Pioneers pulled back into it to set up that furious fourth quarter finish to push the game into overtime.

Crescent City outrebounded the Panthers 45-35, which concerns Hudson heading into Saturday’s title contest against Northwood-Lena.

“Every possession matters,” Hudson said. “Every single possession matters. One thing we try to stress, and sometimes we don’t do a good job of it, is cherishing every possession – both offensive and defensive. 

“We struggled on the defensive glass. If we do that on Saturday, it’s going to be a long game. … And we gambled so much. It’s so out of character for us to shoot from the top of the key as much as we did. We had an eight-point lead at one point that went to four real quick.”

Hudson was also concerned by the Panthers’ 46% performance at the free-throw line (14-of-30) that he said his former mentor and Lincoln Prep coach Michael Lyons, who passed away last month at the age of 72, wouldn’t have been happy about. 

“Coach would have told me that you dance with the girl you came to the party with,” Hudson said. “We’ve been an up tempo, pressing team all year. That’s what got us here, and I know he believed in me as a coach to make the adjustments we needed to make. 

“The other thing he’d say – he’d be fussing about those free throws. He’d say, ‘Hell baby, they’re free.’ But I know he’s proud.”

Mack led the Panthers with 18 points while Mayfield double-doubled with 18 points and 11 rebounds while adding eight steals, three assists and two blocked shots.

Heard added 10 points for the Panthers, who also received nine points from Burks and eight from sophomore Amarjae Young.

“Amarjae stepped up these last two playoff games and Kobe Mack has done that all season,” Hudson said. “It was a solid all-around team effort, and that’s what I like to see.”

Hudson was also quick to credit the Pioneers and especially Magee, who scored a game-high 20 points, for their hard-fought game.

“But we also have to tip our hats to (Crescent City),” Hudson said. “That freshman guard (Magee) – if he’s a freshman he’s going to have some big times the next couple of years because he played lights out. For him to come into this environment for the first time and play like that, that says a whole lot.”

The Panthers will next face top-seeded Northwood-Lena, which defeated fourth-seed St. Martin’s Episcopal 62-47 on Thursday.

That championship game will tip off at noon Saturday at Burton Coliseum.