Hahnville boys basketball coach Rick Spring knows what he and his team will be walking into Friday night when it sets foot into archrival Destrehan’s gym for a key District 7-5A battle.
The Tigers posted a decisive victory over the Wildcats in the first meeting between the teams, an 80-63 HHS victory on Jan. 5 in which the Tigers exploded early to outscore Destrehan 40-13 in the first quarter of play.
But while that was Hahnville’s night, logic dictates Destrehan’s coaches and players won’t soon forget that night’s result and will commit to putting forth a prideful, spirited effort on their home court. Also at play is the Wildcats’ need for a victory. Destrehan entered the week 0-6 in district play and sits right outside the playoff picture, ranked 36th in Class 5A power point rankings. The top 32 teams qualify for the postseason.
“First of all, you never could expect the kind of first quarter we had (in the first meeting), so you certainly don’t expect it this time around,” Spring said. “We played extremely, extremely well for an eight minute period, but that’s all it is. I think our guys understand the second, third and fourth quarters are a better indication of how competitive it is between our teams.
“I can tell you that we know we’ll have Destrehan’s full attention. I won’t have to spend a lot of time stressing that to our guys. This group understands that we’ll have to put together a more complete game this time.”
Hahnville (14-7, 3-2) certainly will place high importance on this game as well. After HHS’ 84-83 victory at home over H.L. Bourgeois last Friday, the Tigers are still very much in the district championship chase. The win over the Braves was Bourgeois’ first district loss of the season, leaving the Tigers one game back Bourgeois, Central Lafourche and East St. John, each of which are 4-1 in 7-5A competition.
That win over Bourgeois also halted a Tigers’ district losing skid at two, after a pair of losses to East St. John, 61-53, and Central Lafourche, 69-56.
“Those three teams (East St. John, H.L. Bourgeois and Central Lafourche) have been the teams at the top of our district for a while, and we knew our ultimate success in district play would come down to our performance against those teams. So when we dropped games to the first two teams, we knew how important it was to get the one against H.L. Bourgeois, even just from a confidence standpoint.
That win went to overtime, with the winning points coming via two Mako Marin free throws with 14 seconds left.
Marin, a freshman, stepped up beyond his years, Spring said.
“You just never know when it’s going to be your chance to step up,” Spring said. “Here comes a freshman in off the bench and we need him to not only play in those impact minutes, but come through. He walked to the line and knocked them down. It was nothing but net. I don’t think he caught rim at all.”
The game was tight the entire way through.
“I don’t think either of us led by more than seven,” Spring said. “We’d make a run, then they’d make a run, and it went like that all night long.”
With H.L. Bourgeois focused on stopping leading scorer Mason Aucoin, Spring said his team showed that stopping one player won’t be enough. Most notably, Christian McKinney buried seven 3-pointers en route to a 25 point night. Nathan Kennedy scored 17 points while Raylon Hardy added 12.
“Nathan Kennedy has also been playing extremely well in district play,” Spring said. “He’s giving us a strong inside presence. Lane Bolner and Raylon Hardy are distributing the ball, keeping turnovers down and keeping our offense flowing.”
The offense has kept on flowing, though opposing teams have set out to slow the tempo against the Tigers in an attempt to compromise Hahnville’s space and pace offensive philosophy.
Spring said that’s something he’s used to seeing, but also noted that at times, the Tigers seek to slow the pace themselves after building a lead; that’s an area he says his team can work on going forward.
“When you’re protecting lead, at times you’re in a place where you want to slow things a bit and be a little more selective,” Spring said. “We haven’t done that well enough. We had leads against Central Lafourche and East St. John that we didn’t protect well enough.”
Against Central Lafourche, Kennedy scored 17 and Aucoin added 13.