You could excuse Hahnville and its fans for feeling a bit of uncomfortable déjà vu on Friday night.
Defending Class 5A champion Thibodaux had stormed back from a 15-fourth quarter deficit to trail by just one with less than four minutes remaining in a first round state playoff matchup between the district rivals — a scene eerily reminiscent of Thibodaux’s fourth quarter rally in its second round game at Hahnville a year ago.
But Hahnville wouldn’t allow it to happen again, outscoring the visitors 12-8 over the remainder of regulation to secure a 65-60 victory, advancing to round two and perhaps vanquishing the ghosts of its 2019 playoff exit.
“We kept our composure,” said Tyren Lebeauf, who sank nine of his 10 fourth quarter free throw attempts to help Hahnville secure the win. “We’re used to this. After the trials and tribulations we had early in the season, we learned from our mistakes. We were ready for anything that came out way.
“We knew we had a lead last year and let the game go. We weren’t going to let it happen again.”
No. 10 Hahnville (24-9), which has won 14 of its past 15 games, will travel to face No. 7 Ponchatoula in round two. That game will take place Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
Kaden Pierre scored a game-high 18 points to lead Hahnville. Lebeauf scored 14, as did Claudell Harris Jr. Ta’kourin Grows added eight.
J’Mari Carter led Thibodaux (16-14) with 18, tied with Pierre for the game-high. Kyren Lacy added 15. Darwin Davis Jr. and Rashaud Winslow each added nine.
This game seemed to prove the axiom that one of the most difficult feats in sports is to eliminate a defending champion, as Thibodaux’s fourth quarter rally seemed relentless. After a Thibodaux basket was negated by a traveling violation with just under seven minutes left, Lebeauf drew a foul and sank two free throws to give Hahnville a 50-35 lead, its biggest of the night.
The big push came after two Dylan Lorio free throws gave Hahnville a 52-41 lead. Carter drilled a 3, then Thibodaux scored again almost immediately after a Lacy steal and Kelly Raymond basket, and the lead was down to six.
Davis drew a foul and made two free throws. Hahnville added a free throw via Harris, but Winslow and Carter combined to score the next four points—the latter scoring after a blocked shot ignited a fastbreak, and the Thibodaux fans in attendance – whittling the lead down to 1.
“When they got it under 10, it’s like ‘guys, settle down’ … a couple of those turnovers we had were almost identical to the way it was last year,” said Hahnville coach Yussef Jasmine. “I think their coach, his approach was to remember what happened last year. Play extra hard and force some mistakes.”
But Thibodaux made a critical error on Hahnville’s next possession. Pierre drew a foul, and THS was called for a technical foul after a demonstrative reaction to the call. Pierre sank one of two, then Harris hit two of two to make it 56-52. After a defensive stop, Lebeauf drew a foul and hit two free throws to make it a six point lead, 58-52.
Carter hit another 3 to cut the lead in half with 2:07 left. Hahnville pulled the ball out and went into its clock-killing offense, shaving the time down to 50 seconds before Marcel Byrd took the ball to the basket for a layup, pushing Hahnville ahead by five.
“We work on our endgame … a lot of times, Kaden (Hahnville’s center) can stretch out and if a big is guarding him, we’ll have him outside. We could have been a bit more polished, but nevertheless, that was a big sequence for us,” Jasmine said.
Carter drove straight to the bucket at the other end and scored, then Lebeauf sank two more at the line before Lacy canned another 3.
But after Lebeauf made one of two to give Hahnville a 3-point lead with 14 seconds left, Thibodaux was whistled for its second technical foul of the quarter—this time for calling a timeout on an inbounds play when none were remaining. Lebeauf hit two more at the line and Thibodaux would draw no closer.
“I think his poise is different,” Jasmine said of Lebeauf’s clutch ballhandling and foul shooting. “The self-confidence is there. We’re blessed to have him on our team … he steps up in big moments.”
Hahnville led 33-20 at halftime.
The win represented the third win of the season for Hahnville over Thibodaux, roles reversed from last year when Thibodaux felled Hahnville three times.
The rivalry has only grown on the basketball court, and the packed gymnasium in Boutte showed as much.
“I doubt that many first round games had that kind of crowd,” Jasmine said. “Not just people sitting there watching, but engaged in the game. It’s a testament to our district and our rivalry with Thibodaux.”
While Hahnville has advanced from round one before under Jasmine, this was the first home playoff win the Tigers secured over his three seasons with the team.
“It’s a special night, for sure, but more importantly for us is we’re moving on,” Jasmine said.