Evidently, someone forgot to tell the alumni that Saturday's “old-timers” game was just an exhibition. In a game that was as competitive as it was when Morehouse Parish's two public high schools routinely battled in front of overflow crowds, Anthony Lawson's free throw with 4.7 seconds remaining provided the margin of victory as the Mustangs squeaked past the Rams in the third annual Delta-Bastrop Alumni All-Star Game at Sam's Place.
Jesse Burnette, who guided Delta to its only state championship in 1994-95 and now coaches at Carroll, and Theodis Johnson, who saw the rivalry from both sides as the coach of Delta and Bastrop, served as coaches for Saturday's game. Even on a 98 degree day when the air conditioning unit wasn't turned on, neither coach could fault his team's intensity level. After all, we are talking about the parish rivalry and bragging rights.
And, yes, winning still matters.
“It starts out as just a friendly game, but at the end everybody starts playing hard,” said Burnette, who has three state championships to his credit, including two at Carroll. “By the time they get to the fourth quarter, every possession, every point, every free throw counts. We were lucky to win it this time.”
“At the end, Rams and Mustangs — it came out,” agreed Johnson, who presently coaches the boys and girls teams at Dubach. “You could see it, just like in the old days. I don't think they have a rivalry like this any more (Delta and Bastrop consolidated in 2005) — maybe in football, but not it basketball.”
Pat Jones' bucket from down low gave the Rams a 48-43 lead with just over a minute to play, but the Mustangs would not be denied.
Navarro Loche, who led all scorers with 18 points, drained his third 3-pointer on the Mustangs' next possession to trim the deficit to 48-46 and keep the visitors' chances alive.
Navarro Loche's steal on the other end led to a transition game-tying transition opportunity. Rodney Anthony blocked Anthony Lawson's first attempt, but Lawson stayed with it and tallied on the putback to square the scoreboard at 48 with :41.9 to play.
Following a Bastrop miss, the Mustangs were awarded possession out of bounds with :19.1 on the clock.
Bastrop was then whistled for an ill-advised intentional foul with :4.7 seconds to go.
Cortez Robinson stepped to the line to take the free throws and drained the first shot. However, Bastrop correctly pointed out that Lawson should have been the actual shooter. After a brief huddle, Robinson's point was waived off and Lawson was sent to the line.
Lawson had missed his previous four attempts from the line, but promptly converted the first shot to give the Mustangs a 49-48 victory.
Close throughout, the game featured nine lead changes and six ties.
Chad Clark's 3-pointer tied the game 8-8 at the end of the first period.
Navarro Loche scored the final five points of the second quarter on a transition layup and a 3-pointer in the waning seconds to put the Mustangs up 17-12 at intermission.
Bastrop stormed back with a 7-0 flurry to start the second half, grabbing a 19-17 lead on Charles Reese's deep 3.
The competitive nature of the game began to show later in the quarter as Bastrop's Chris Sneed was called for a technical foul.
Shortly afterwards, Delta assistant coach Adam Moore was assessed a technical and asked to leave the bench.
With Bastrop clinging to a 26-25 lead, Navarro Loche buried a trifecta from the right wing and Lawson finished a breakaway layup, enabling Delta to carry a 30-26 advantage into the final 10 minutes.
Delta soon opened up the biggest lead of the game by either team, 34-27, as Winzell Robinson spotted Cortez Robinson open underneath the basket.
Bastrop was far from done, however.
Reese's long 3 capped an 8-0 run and put Bastrop ahead 35-34 with 7:12 remaining.
LeMarcus Payne converted his own rebound to help Delta regain the lead, 36-35, but Martel Davenport's 3-pointer from the circle and Reese's 3-ball from the Arkansas state line propelled the Rams to a 41-36 edge.
Bastrop would not surrender the lead until the closing seconds.
Navarro Loche scored eight points in the final quarter to lead the Mustangs and Lawson added 13 — 11 in the second half.
For the Rams, Reese dropped in eight of his 14 points in the final quarter. Martel Davenport finished with 10 points, all in the final half.
For Burnette and Johnson, both of whom coached in the game for the first time, it was a happy reunion.
“It's a good game. It's good for the community, good for the fans and good for these guys who have played each other through the years — Delta and Bastrop,” Burnette said. “I think they all enjoy it.”
Added Johnson: “Seeing so many of these guys brings back some fond memories. I have to come back next year. I'm putting it on my calendar.”
Next year, the game rotates back to Delta.
Notes: Delta's victory evened the series at 2-2. … Bastrop's 1974-75 Class 4A state championship team and Delta's 1994-95 state championship squads were recognized at halftime. … Bastrop's contingent included coach Mike Vining, who went on to become the winningest coach in ULM history, Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, Larry Robinson, Alan Tanzy and Willie Charles Robinson. … Proceeds from the game will be donated to the Morehouse Cancer Society, the Bastrop Rams Men's Basketball Foundation and the Bastrop Baby Rams' pee wee football team.