Howard dunk

Port Allen's Isaiah Howard gets a breakaway dunk during Wednesday's semifinal game against Patterson

Former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich famously said 'never underestimate the heart of a champion' and that couldn't have been more true Wednesday night.
Three-time defending champion Port Allen has its back against the ropes several times and overcame multiple deficits to advance to its 5th straight state title game with a 77-75 victory over No. 4 Patterson in the Division III nonselect semifinals at Burton Coliseum
The Pelicans advance to face No. 3 Winnfield in the state championship Saturday at 4 p.m. Winnfield defeated No. 2 French Settlement Wednesday night.
Port Allen (28-4) shot 28 percent from the field, 7 percent from three-point range, and was outrebounded by 10. Senior EJ McQuillan spoke about what helped propel the Pels to victory fresh off his 35-point night.
All those times I kept going to the goal, I was telling everybody, 'I'm not going home," he said. "I refuse to go home. I have a goal in mind that I want."
Accomplishing that goal would make McQuillan the most decorated basketball player in the school's history. He has a chance Saturday to become the first player at the school to win a state championship in every season.
"I think that has to be at least top five when it comes to one of the greatest high school games ever," said Port Allen coach Dimario Jackson. "It has to be. Hats off to Patterson. They're well-coached, they're tough and they play hard. They're physical, and they execute their game plan really well. But hats off to my guys. That's a hard-fought gritty, tough win."
Port Allen needed big games from its senior guards McQuillan and Isaiah Howard and they delivered. McQuillan added 13 rebounds to go with his game-high 35. Howard poured in 32 points to go with 13 rebounds. 
The Pelicans' dynamic duo combined for 67 of the team's 77 points. McQuillan hit only five of his 27 shots from the field, but he drained 24 of 28 free throws, including some key ones in the final 30 seconds of the final overtime.
Josiah Johnson led Patterson (22-5) with 24 points and 13 rebounds. The Lumberjacks' depth was severely compromised as the game continued with three starters fouling out.
"We lost the game when we kept getting sped up and we stopped throwing the ball inside," said Patterson coach Warrell Span.
The Pelicans trailed 21-7 with six minutes left in the first half. Port Allen outscored Patterson 18-8 the rest of the way to trim the deficit to 29-25 at halftime.
Howard made a layup with six min to go in the third that gave Port Allen a 32-31 lead, the team's first since it was 2-0.
The Lumberjacks responded with a 17-5 run to take a 48-37 lead into the fourth quarter.
Port Allen trailed by eight points with 2:03 remaining in regulation. Howard made a layup plus the foul for a three-point play that tied the game at 60 with 33 seconds left.
McQuillan hit the go-ahead shot with 52 seconds left to help Port Allen close it out.
"It has to be the toughest game we've played," Jackson said. "It was a total team effort from the guys on the bench to us having to play without Aries (Lewis) a good bit of the night. We haven't had to do that in a very long time. Shout out to the players on the floor doing whatever it takes to win and having that mindset of I refuse to go home."

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