Port Allen team

The Port Allen Pelicans will take on the Lake Arthur Tigers Monday night in the Class 2A semifinals at the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

Friday's upset win on the road over No. 2 Red River helped clinch a Top 28 berth for the Port Allen basketball program for the first time since 2008.

However, Monday's semifinal matchup against No. 6 Lake Arthur wasn't the end goal for Port Allen, according to head coach Derrick Jones.

"We're happy to make it here, but just making to the Top 28 wasn't our goal," Jones said. "We want to bring a state championship home to Port Allen."

The Tigers hope to halt the Pelicans' march to the state championship game, but will not only have to contend with a swarming defense that has stifled opponents in the first three rounds, but also a supportive fan base that has consistently supported the team from confines of the Pels nest in Port Allen to three hours away in Coushatta.

"This community has been awesome," Jones said. "For a long time, the perception has been you can't make it from Port Allen High. When I got this job, my goal was to change that perception. They've supported us so much and we appreciate it."

With close to only 24 hours to prepare for the game, Jones said taking care of the ball will be extremely crucial for his team going up against a fast Lake Arthur squad.

"The biggest thing is taking care of the ball offensively and defending our paint," Jones said. "They're similar to Many in some ways. Their guards are better than Many's and they play fast. It's about valuing the basketball on offense."

Lake Arthur enters the game with a 28-5 record out of District 6-2A. Also in the district with the Tigers are Ville Platte and Welsh to make up three of the top eight seeds in Class 2A.

To get a bit of a simulation of what it would be like playing in the Burton Coliseum, Port Allen held practice Sunday evening at the Southern University mini dome.

The team left Port Allen Sunday night to head to Lake Charles to try and block out distractions.

"It's about focusing on the game," Jones said. "There's a lot of excitement and the kids deserve it, but they need to be focused. The excitement is through the roof and there's Mardi Gras and all kind of stuff going on. We just want to try to block out some of the distractions."

Second year success

Jones is in his second year at the helm, coming off a 15-18 record last season and a second-round exit in the playoffs.

With the abundance of success the program has achieved this year, it would seem that Port Allen came out of nowhere or developed quickly.

That would be a wrong assumption if you asked the coach.

"We should've been in the Top 28 last year," Jones said. "I screwed the game up. I kinda got tight and didn't coach like I normally did. We took some lumps early, but that prepared us for down the stretch. We played some good basketball."

Losses helped shape historic season

Entering Monday's matchup, Port Allen has 23 wins and 12 losses. When asked about a defining moment or moments of the season, Jones turned to examples where tallies in the loss column helped shaped 2018-19 Pelicans.

"That Riverside game in the Madison Prep Tournament and just that tournament in general," Jones recalled. We lost to Riverside and De La Salle and I got after them and challenged them and then we went to Catholic High and beat Livonia and that got us moving in the right direction.

"Us getting smacked by Dunham was huge," he added. "They still had a little bit of the mentality that they didn't belong with elite programs."

The Pelicans went through a grueling regular season schedule that produced only six non-playoff teams out of the 32-game schedule. Port Allen played 14 games against teams that advanced to at least the quarterfinals and nine games against teams in the Top 28.

"The schedule we had was done intentionally," Jones said. "I don't care about my career record. I want to bring a championship to Port Allen. That's the goal."

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