Gators turn away Griffins in finale

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
St. Amant's K.J. Franklin (left) defends Dutchtown's Jordan Jackson (right) in the Gators' 46-40 win on Friday night. Photo by Tammy Gaudin.

With the third quarter winding down and his team down 7 on the road at Dutchtown, St. Amant head coach Travis Uzee took all five starters out and looked to his bench to give him a spark.

Led by Jerome Turner and Justin Gibson, they did just that.

Gibson scored 6, and Turner made some huge rebounds and defensive stops to get the Gators within striking distance.

From there, K.J. Franklin took over.

Franklin went on his own personal 9-0 run that allowed St. Amant to take the lead over the Griffins, a lead they were able to hold for a much-needed 46-40 victory.

"The problem that we've been having is that we haven't been playing with a lot of emotion, and that's how it was in the first half," Uzee said. "In that third and fourth quarter, I took the five starters out, and those guys on the bench gave us a little boost. I think our starters realized we needed more. We hung in there together, and we needed this going into next week."

Heading into the contest, Dutchtown and St. Amant were on completely different paths.

The Griffins came in with confidence after going 4-2 in their previous six games. On the other hand, the Gators were reeling--coming off of four losses in their previous five contests.

Things were ugly from the start with both teams missing shots and committing turnovers.

A Franklin steal and layup gave St. Amant a 6-2 lead, but a 3-pointer by Gary Smith sparked a 5-1 Dutchtown run to tie the game at 7 heading into the second.

The Gators went cold as ice from the field and couldn't buy a made free throw. This allowed the Griffins to surge to a 20-13 lead with two Neill Caldwell treys.

However, an 8-0 run by St. Amant at the end of the quarter helped trim the deficit to 22-21 at the break.

Dutchtown came out strong to start the third. Bryan Allen made two buckets to push their advantage back to 7.

That's when Uzee went to his bench, and the gamble paid off.

Gibson scored 4 to get St. Amant within 33-29 heading into the fourth.

When Franklin got back into the game, he took over for the Gators.

He wasted no time drilling a 3-pointer to get St. Amant within 1, and his two free throws gave them their first lead since the opening quarter.

By the time he finished his barrage, he had scored 9 straight points to give St. Amant a 4-point lead.

With Dutchtown settling for unsuccessful 3-pointers, the Gators completed an 11-0 run to go up, 46-40, and they held on to win by the same score.

"The thing that we've been struggling at the most is the free-throw line. Over the last four games, we've been horrendous, and that's been one of the main reasons why we've been having some close losses," Uzee said. "In the end, K.J. made two big ones that put us up 4, and then we made a big hustle play. We're a pretty good basketball team when we play hard together for every possession."

For Dutchtown, they were led by Nick Caldwell as he scored 12. Smith scored 9, and Neill Caldwell netted 8.

Though the Griffins fell short, they still finished the season with a solid overall record of 17-13. Dutchtown had only won 14 games in the previous two years.

As for the Gators, Franklin had a game-high 16. Jimmie Pittman had 10, and Kameron Kelson scored 7.

With the victory, St. Amant finished the regular season with an overall record of 20-11.

"I think there's an opportunity for us to win, and it doesn't matter who we play, but it's really more about us than who our opponent is, at this point," Uzee said. "Hopefully, this will kick us in the butt a little bit, and we can make a run at it. I think we have the players. We just have to believe in each other a bit more, and I think we can get it done."