Hahnville fought back again, and again and again, but its journey ended in the Class 5A state semifinals last week in Lake Charles.
The 4th seeded Tigers fell one game short of reaching the state championship game as they could not overcome top-seeded Natchitoches Central, the latter besting HHS 58-48 to advance to the state final.
“We started the game with a lead, but honestly I didn’t think it was clean for us … it was almost a frantic pace,” said Hahnville head coach Yussef Jasmine, whose team led after a quarter of play before falling behind by nine at halftime. “Both teams were trying to figure out their way to settle down, and I think they settled down more than we did … we didn’t play as clean a game as we needed to.”
Hahnville twice closed significant gaps in the second half, rallying back from what was a 13-point Chiefs lead to close within one in the third quarter. After NCHS surged again to jump ahead 42-33 entering the fourth quarter, the Tigers once again pulled within one at 42-41 following an 8-0 run, with approximately five minutes left in the game.
But the Chiefs stood firm once again and held Hahnville at bay, this time for good.
“We made some runs … we are a good team, and we fought,” Jasmine said. “We had adversity in the Bonnabel (quarterfinal) game, down eight at half. This time we fell behind by more, and got back into it. It just seemed like every time we closed the gap, we got frantic again and stopped doing the things we were doing to get back in it.”
Jasmine called the loss “a little painful,” noting he didn’t believe it represented his team’s peak level of play.
“I just don’t think we were at our best … respect to Natchitoches Central, of course, and at the end of the day they and Zachary were the two teams that did everything they needed to do to be in the final,” Jasmine said. “But there’s that painful moment when the game is over, and you have to look within … not at a referee or another team, but to ask yourself ‘did we do enough today to win this game?’ In reality, we didn’t. We have to own that.”
NCHS (27-2) led 28-19 at halftime.
Darius Young led the Chiefs with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Gerald Williams scored 11 to complement him.
Seniors Claudell Harris and Kaden Pierre each scored 14 to lead Hahnville (21-4) in their final games with the program.
Natchitoches Central which finished as Class 5A runner up after falling to Zachary in the state championship game, 63-57.
While Jasmine felt the Tigers underperformed in the loss, he said it in no way detracts from the total effort his players over the course of what was a very successful season. Hahnville lost six players from last year’s group, including two starters and several top reserves, but quickly felled several of the state’s top teams to climb as high as the top spot in the Class 5A power point rankings.
“I can’t recall a single day where this group hasn’t given everything to us, hasn’t done everything we’ve asked of them as coaches,” Jasmine said.
In the end, Hahnville finished as a state semifinalist for the second consecutive season, a far cry from the position the program held just a few seasons ago, when Jasmine became the Tigers’ fifth head coach in six seasons in 2017.
“The goal is always to win a state championship and you’re disappointed when you don’t, but nonetheless we’ve been in the final four the past two years, our of 52 teams in 5A. Not bad,” he said.
The key ingredient, he said, is the team played for one another.
“We function from a place of love. When we break the huddle, it’s 1-2-3 family,’” Jasmine said. “Those young men are my family, and I pour everything I have into them with my heart. And when they play, they play from that perspective too. At practice, in games, they embody the idea that the guy next to them is their friend, their family, and it’s never a place where people are torn down. That’s within the things we can control.”