A sense of cautious optimism prevailed for Port Allen coach Brandon Ricard after his team’s first full week of action.
Port Allen edged Family Christian 79-78 last week and returned from the holiday break to defeat Jehovah Jireh 59-47. Ricard gladly accepts the 2-0 start, but wants much more from his 2012-13 squad.
He hopes he can guide the Pelicans to their first state championship tournament appearance since 2009.
“The goal is to win the district championship, but the ultimate goal is to win the state title,” he said. “I’d rather go second in district every year and make it to state.”
Ricard acknowledges a state championship berth won’t be a free ride.
“I’m looking for another kid to step up,” said Ricard, who begins his third season with PAHS. “We have a long way to go, but we’re working hard.”
Despite the close game against FCA, Ricard believes the Pels could amount to something special this year.
“Our team is hungry, working hard and trying to stay,” Ricard said. “Some of the players are taking up a new role, they’ve moved up a grade and they’re getting more varsity time.”
Although his team dealt FCA its second loss in nine games, Ricard doesn’t want to jump the gun about the Pelicans.
“It’s too early to say about this team,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be better than last year, but we don’t want to make predictions too soon.
“We’d love to have another twenty-win season, but it’s not our goal,” Ricard said. “Our goal is the state championship.”
Against Family Christian, Nick Parker scored a game-winning layup with nine seconds left.
Parker powered Port Allen with 34 points, while senior Jarius Turner fired 26. Each had five shots from three-point range.
FCA tied Port Allen 40-40 at halftime. The Pelicans led 20-16 in the first quarter.
The Pelicans trailed 71-58 in the fourth quarter, but PAHS turned up the press and capitalized on FCA turnovers in the last three minutes of the game.
Gumby Williams netted 35 points to lead FCA, while Jaran Holmes (son of former Port Allen coach Jamie Holmes) tallied 17 points.
“It was a very exciting game,” Ricard said. “We had two of the best guards in the area at play. Williams is a Division One prospect and has several colleges looking at him.
In action against Jehova Jireh on Monday, the Pels broke from a 13-13 tie in the first quarter to topple the visitors 59-47.
The Pels outscored JJHS 17-9 in the second quarter and 15-14 in the third.
Parker paced Port Allen with 18 points, while Marcus Keyes and Telson Allen each had eight points. Ishmael Lane and Nelson Allen each had six points.
Keyes and Lane—both sophomores -- could also figure prominently with the Pelicans this season. Both made strong showings in the summer program, and bring needed height to the program.
“They’re young, but very good,” Ricard said.
Keyes stands 6-5. Lane was 6-1 during the summer, but sprouted to 6-5 by the start of the hoop season.
Leadership roles remain consistent within the Pelicans.
“Nick will continue to be a leader, but Jarius Turner will be the senior leader.” Ricard said. “His sharp shooting is coming back.”
Nelson Allen also figures as an integral part of the Pelicans this year.
“He will bring us speed as a defender,” Ricard said. “He’s so fast and small that some people don’t see him sometimes. I think we’re going to be a little bigger and a little smarter this year, The win against Family Christian shows we can fight back to win games.”
Port Allen opens action in the Brusly Tournament on Wednesday at 4 p.m. against St. John.