Electric. That is the best word to describe the atmosphere in the Brusly High School gymnasium Friday night when in-parish rival and district-leading Port Allen visited.
The Pelicans, who are tied for the District 7-3A with W. Feliciana, warred against the home Panthers in front of a packed out gymnasium where there wasn’t an empty spot in the bleachers. After an action packed battle for the lead, Port Allen’s boys held off the Panthers’ last minute comeback attempt, taking the victory, 60-55.
“Any time Brusly and Port Allen play each other, records go out the window,” said Brusly head basketball coach Harold Boudreaux. “Both teams seemed to play at a different level. You’ve got to say bragging rights is a part of it.”
An already buzzing gym’s atmosphere intensified in the last second of the first quarter when Brusly’s Travin Thibodeaux drained a desperation nearly-full court shot at the buzzer, tying the teams 15-15.
At halftime, Port Allen held a two-point lead over the Panthers, and a 10-point lead at the close of the third quarter, but Brusly came back swinging in the fourth, and with just 17 seconds left in the game, the Panthers whittled Port Allen’s lead to just one point: 55-56.
In the last seconds of the game, Brusly’s turnovers took their toll as the Panthers gave up control of the ball several times, which the Pelicans capitalized on, scoring twice more.
“The crucial moment in us losing that game versus Port Allen was turnovers at the wrong time,” said Boudreaux. “Turnovers are going to happen throughout the game, but you don’t want it to happen in a moment where you have a chance to, maybe, steal the game; and it happened at a moment twice that we had a chance to steal one good win for the year, especially in district. It just didn’t bounce that way.”
Port Allen head coach Brandon Ricard said that he was pleased with the outcome of the game, adding that the level of competition was extremely high.
“I was feeling confident before the game. It shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but I’ll take a five point win over a one point loss any day.”
Port Allen’s Nigel Allen scored a team-high 22 points and had four blocks. Josh Walker tacked on another 10 for the Pels while Ishmael Lane had eight points and four blocks. Nick Parker had six points, eight assists and seven rebounds while Telson Allen scored nine and had three steals.
One of the highlights of the game was the matchup between Pels’ center, Ishmael Lane and forward, Marcus Keyes, who a towering 6’7” and 6’6”, respectively, battling down low against Brusly’s Travin Thibodeaux, who is 6’7”.
Thibodeaux led the Panthers’ scoring attack with 22 points and had 18 rebounds.
“To Thibodeaux, it was a challenge. He knew he had to go against two tough players inside and the surrounding cast that Port Allen has... he had to step up. He had to make a difference for us,” said Boudreaux. “He stepped up and did what he was supposed to do and he’s been doing that throughout district. We can’t ask for more.”
Of the five times that the West Baton Rouge rivals have faced each other this season, including tournament play, Port Allen has won four.
Friday night’s win over Brusly marked Ricard's 100th career victory as a head coach, whose first head coaching job was at Brusly High School six years ago where he managed to win 10 games in a rebuilding process. During the last five years at Port Allen High, Ricard has managed to win 90 games, bringing him to his milestone of 100 victories.
Port Allen vs. Baker
Ricard’s 99th win came at the hands of Baker on Tuesday, February 4.
“The team’s been playing well and playing really hard,” said Ricard. “Telson Allen in particular has been playing very well.”
Allen, a junior, managed nine points, five rebounds, an assist and a block against the Buffs Tuesday night.
Nick Parker had a double-double, scoring 24 points and adding 11 rebounds and seven assists. Ishmael Lane added another 17 points, six rebounds and two blocks for the Pelicans.
Port Allen will take on U-High at home this week on Tuesday and Parkview Baptist on Friday at Parkview.
Brusly vs. Parkview Baptist
Brusly lost in another close battle against Parkview Baptist, who have become a district rival of sorts for the Panthers in recent years, losing 48-43 at home.
“We’re losing close games, and that says a lot about a team who’s lost four seniors last year,” said Panthers coach Harold Boudreaux. “We’re asking a lot. We don’t have pure, pure basketball players. We have to take what we have and work with it.”
Travin Thibodeaux scored a team-high 17 points while Michael Bryant tacked on another 10 for the Panthers.
“(Thibodeaux) is one of the dominant big men in this district,” Boudreaux said. “If not the most valuable player, in my eyes. It’s a big challenge, this district.”
Parkview’s Reed Vial scored a game high 20 points while James Thompson scored 12, leading the Eagles’ charge against the Panthers.
Boudreaux said that Brusly’s defensive effort was strong, but not quite enough to pull off the win.
“Our defense is good; they give us a chance every night. We just have to continue to get those hustle balls and just keep playing tough and try to finish strong the next three games and get a good position in the playoffs and hopefully we can get a good draw,” he said. “Anything can happen. It’s hard to predict this (district). Whoever finishes first, it’s well deserved.”
The Panthers face off against West Feliciana on Friday before taking on Baker on Feb. 18 and Glen Oaks on Feb. 21.