Gator victory locks up playoff spot
Last season, St. Amant hosted their season finale against a struggling Dutchtown team with a playoff spot on the line. The Gators got upset that night, forcing them to sit at home during the postseason, despite a 19-12 record.
This year, the Gators made sure they didn't suffer the same fate.
St. Amant hosted a Griffins team suffering through a 10-game losing streak. Heading into the contest, the Gators were in the No. 31 spot in the power rankings. They had to win to have a chance of reaching the postseason.
Dutchtown gave them a stern test. St. Amant trailed by as many as 6, but they found a way to get it done by a score of 54-49.
"There were a few scenarios for us to get in, and of course, one of them was that we had to win," Gator head coach Travis Uzee said. "If we make the playoffs, I can't tell you how excited we would be, however, it was so important for us to finish this season right with this young group. We have no seniors; everybody's coming back. A loss right here would have been a bad way to end it."
Dutchtown got off to a great start. They raced out to a 7-2 lead on the strength of some great defensive play. With St. Amant making just three field goals, the Griffins led, 13-9, after one.
The Gators finally got things going offensively in the second quarter.
Jahnoi Daley had a put-back to trim the lead to 2, KJ Franklin had a coast-to-coast drive and layup to tie the game and Daley added another contested layup to complete an 11-4 St. Amant run that gave them their first lead.
Though, Dutchtown did respond. Tim Michael Hasten got to the line twice down to stretch and got his free throws to go--allowing the Griffins to regain a 25-22 halftime advantage.
The Gators made a big run to start the third quarter. They got buckets from both Franklin and Kameron Kelson to put them back on top.
Carter Templet finished up a 7-0 flurry when he drilled a 3-pointer to stretch the St. Amant lead to 4.
At the end of the quarter, Franklin drove to the rim and made a tremendous dish to Kelson. He threw down a dunk to give the Gators a 40-34 lead heading into the fourth.
That lead ballooned to 11 points in the final period after another trey by Templet, but the Griffins didn't go out quietly.
Neill Caldwell ignited a run when he hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 5. Hasten eventually completed an and-one play to cut the deficit to 3. He then made a shot down low to get Dutchtown within 1.
With time running low and the Griffins down 2, Kendrick Oubre had a shot barely rim out.
The Gators were able to grab the rebound. Franklin was sent to the line, and he made both free throws to put the lead to 4. From there, St. Amant did just enough from the line to pull out the 54-49 victory.
"I'm proud of our guys. We were down, and we've done it all season--being down and just finding a way to win," Uzee said. "I was disappointed we let them back in it with our mistakes, but at the end of the day, like we've done all year, we just figured it out. We have a young freshman that has made huge free throws for us in district with KJ. Carter has been a great free-throw shooter all year long. It was a great night for us."
The young Griffin squad ended their season on an 11-game losing streak. They finished with an overall record of 9-21.
In the loss to St. Amant, Hasten led the way with a game-high 18 points. Caldwell had 10.
Three players scored in double-figures for the Gators. Kelson had 15, Templet had 13 and Franklin had 12. Daley chipped in with 8.
The victory allowed St. Amant to finish the season with an overall record of 19-14 and a 5-5 mark in district play, despite losing four starters from last year.
"If you would have told me before the season that this team would have 19 wins, I would have thought you were a little crazy because I knew we hardly had any experience. But this team just keeps grinding it out," Uzee said. "We try to keep the games close, because any game that was close in the fourth quarter, we felt like we were going to win. That's a credit to them. They believe in each other."
The good news is that the win earned the Gators a playoff spot. The bad news is that they will be forced to visit No. 1 Natchitoches Central in the first round--a team that went 27-3 during the regular season.