Power surge

Kyle Riviere
Christian Thompson and Dutchtown surge into the playoffs on the strength of a three-game winning streak. Photo by Dewey Keller.

St. Amant played well Friday night but the way Patrick Thompson was dominating the inside and Nick Whalen was killing it from the outside, they had no chance.

Dutchtown used the balance flurry to outscore the Gators 18-8 in the third quarter and open up a 16-point lead.

"We have a tendency to come out and play well in the third quarter; it's one of our better quarters," Griffin head coach Patrick Hill said. "Give Coach Uzee and St. Amant credit; they never stopped."

Coach Hill's right. Even after falling behind by as many as 18 in the fourth, St. Amant made a hard charge to cut the deficit to just five. But Dutchtown was too tough down the stretch as they closed out the 59-49 win.

"We battled and battled and didn't give up. That's what I'm most proud of with this team," Gator head coach Travis Uzee said. "Every day at practice, they battle and battle, and that's the mentality these seniors and juniors have been passing along. That's what we did tonight. We gave one of our better efforts against a really good team."

The valiant effort by St. Amant was spearheaded by Courtney Julien. He was a one-man wrecking crew for the Gators as he scored six early points to put St. Amant up 7-6 to start the game.

That's when Whalen started his assault from behind the 3-point line. He hit his first to give Dutchtown the lead.

And at the end of the quarter, Thompson was hit with a beautiful downcourt pass that gave him an easy lay-in at the buzzer.

With the Griffins up by three in the second, Julien got two straight buckets for St. Amant that gave them a one-point lead.

Dutchtown answered with an 11-0 surge. In that run, Whalen hit two more 3-pointers, and Thompson added two buckets of his own.

Even with the Griffin lead jumping up to 10 points, the Gators were able to get two baskets before the half and cut the halftime deficit to 29-23.

The single-digit hole got much deeper in the second half when Whalen remained white-hot. He drilled three more 3-pointers to give Dutchtown a commanding 18-point advantage early in the fourth quarter.

"Nick Whalen shot it so well. I know he's a good shooter, but I think that's the best I've seen him shoot it all year," Uzee said.

On the brink of a blowout loss, Julien willed his team back. He took Whalen's lead and drilled two straight treys of his own to cut the lead to 12.

That ignited a 13-0 run for the Gators as the deficit was trimmed down to just five points.

But Thompson had the answer inside. He converted a huge and-one play in the paint to jump Dutchtown back up by eight.

From there, the Griffins got two clutch free throws from Tevin Thompson, and they were able to grind out the 10-point win.

One of the things that impressed Hill the most in the victory was his team's crisp and proficient ball movement.

"Lately, we've been playing some zone defenses, so we've been doing well with it when trying to move it," Hill said. "We mishandled a couple of balls but as far as them trying to move the ball and getting it inside and attempting to go inside-out, I was pleased with it."

Patrick Thompson led the Griffins with 21 points, and Whalen was right behind with 19 on the strength of six 3-pointers. Christian Thompson added nine.

In the losing effort, Julien was spectacular. Before going down late with a knee injury, he poured in 32 points.

The season might not have gone the way Coach Uzee had hoped for in his first year, but he's still encouraged about the future.

"This is the toughest district in the state. We knew it was going to be tough every game to get one," Uzee said. "We were really close in half of them, but we do have a few younger guys. We are losing some good seniors, but we're excited. I think the seniors have laid a good foundation for this program and how we're going to play, so next season starts now."

This season is still alive and well for 24-6 Dutchtown.

The Griffins will go into the playoffs with a ton of momentum after a week that saw them beat the co-district champs McKinley and East Ascension, and they finished it off with the win over St. Amant in the season finale.

"Both games against EA and McKinley, we were at a deficit and their ability to push through and give themselves a chance to win, that was impressive," Hill said. "Going into tonight's game, even though we weren't at a deficit, we weren't playing well, but it gives you confidence that they're going to work through it."

Dutchtown will host No. 27 seed Southwood in the opening round.