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Gators crush Hammond behind Morris’ 38

Peter Silas Pasqua
St. Amant’s Rashaun Claiborne is fouled by Hammond’s Terrance Bridges in the fourth quarter of the Gator’s 75-52 Class 5A bi-district playoff victory Friday night.

St. Amant jumped out to a 20-5 first quarter lead and never looked back on way to a 75-52 Class 5A bi-district playoff victory over Hammond Friday night at the Gold Dome behind Brandon Morris’ career-high 38 points.

“That is what playoff basketball is all about,” St. Amant head coach Gary Duhe said. “You are at home and you have to set the tempo. We knew Hammond was very good so if we came out and established our tempo it would be to our advantage. They were going to play better and better the longer we let them stay with and I felt like we did a very good job.

“Brandon Morris came out on fire and he made his shots but it was because the other guys were doing their job to get him open. I thought it was a total team effort.”

Sixteenth-seeded St. Amant (23-10) advances to face No. 1 seed Huntington (32-1) Tuesday night in Shreveport at 6:30 p.m. in the regionals. No. 17 seed Hammond ends the season with a 21-2 record.

“In the grant scheme of things we are a young team and I am so proud of them,” Hammond head coach Christopher Hill said. “They have grown both on and off the court.

“You can draw it up. You can practice it and you can attempt to execute it but sometimes, great players make great plays and there is nothing you are going to do about it. You can switch men, change defenses, get a hand up, touch his belly, box him out and pressure him full court but sometimes great players make great plays and have great games.”

Morris scored 11 points in the first quarter and nine in the second and third quarters. Rashaun Claiborne added 13, while Bruce Mathison provided 11, Steve Fulkerson contributed 10 and Nick Morris had seven.

“When Brandon Morris is shooting well and takes good shots, he is as good as anybody I have ever coached as far as just being able to score the basketball,” Duhe said. “Tonight, he was very smart in his shot selection. He penetrated and hit a couple of threes but it was mainly him going to the goal and being the athlete he is because he is so quick. That is not coach given. That is God given. He is just a tremendous athlete as is Rashaun and Bruce is our key. He is the glue that keeps us together.”

Hammond was led by Erving Felder with 12 points. Terrance Bridges added nine while Derrick McCoy provided eight and Mark Bridgewater and Kylan Douglas each had six.

Hammond opened the second half on a 7-0 run capped by Mikal Henry’s lay up off a steal.

Fulkerson’s free throws preceded Ricky Burris’ inside bucket and McCoy’s lay up off a steal to cut it to 41-31.

“We had a nice talk at half-time and I told them we would take away the middle, run our press and get it down to 10 in the fourth quarter and beat them then,” Hill said. “Guys were doing exactly what was asked of them and then all of sudden they were taking ill-advised threes.”

Brandon Morris’ dish to Nick Morris in transition preceded Bridges’ putback before Brandon Morris spun inside. Henry’s dish to Bridgewater for a 3-pointer on the right wing to cut it to 45-36 but that was the closest the Tornados would get.

“I told them at half-time, that Hammond can’t catch us and beat us unless we allow them to,” Duhe said. “They were going to come out hard and double team everything but if they were gambling we needed to look up the floor to get lay-ups. The last thing I told them was to play to win and not to lose. I wanted to be aggressive but smart.”

Fulkerson’s putback preceded Brandon Morris’ consecutive drives before Mathison fed Brandon Morris for a 3-pointer in the right corner to put the Gators ahead 54-37 going into the final stanza.

Brandon Morris’ lay up in transition and Mathison’s pull up in transition opened the fourth quarter before seven straight points from Claiborne gave St. Amant their biggest lead 65-40 on a 3-pointer from the top of the key, two free throws and a drive in transition.

Bridgewater and Nick Morris traded free throws before Felder’s inside bucket and McCoy’s lay-up off a steal cut it to 68-47. Mathison’s pull up in transition preceded Fulkerson’s putback after Felder’s free throws. Brandon Morris’ 3-pointer from the right wing off an inbounds pass from Jacob Gauthier reflected the final tally after Mike Perez’s putback.

St. Amant led 39-20 at half-time.

St. Amant’s Brandon Morris splits Hammond’s Terrance Bridges, Derrick McCoy amd Mikal Henry for two of his career high 38-points to give St. Amant a 49-36 lead in the third quarter Friday night.