BOYS: Homer 51, Sterlington 48
Sterlington will have to wait at least another week to celebrate its first district basketball championship since 1995.
Homer held off a late Sterlington charge for a 51-48 victory Tuesday night, creating a virtual tie for first place in the District 2-2A standings.
Sterlington (23-7, 8-1) closes out conference play at home against Lake Providence on Friday night. Homer (13-9, 7-1), meanwhile, wraps up its district schedule with home games against Lakeside on Friday and a makeup tilt vs. Ferriday on Monday. In addition, the Pelicans are scheduled to play a non-conference game at North Caddo on Tuesday.
Should the two teams wind up tied for first, a playoff game would be played next week at a neutral site. The road team won both regular season games, with the Panthers taking a 72-62 decision at Homer on Jan. 18.
In Tuesday's game, Homer opened up a nine-point lead late in the third quarter, before the Panthers made a fourth quarter push. Sterlington drew within a single point on three occasions in the final period, but could never take the lead.
"Like I just told the kids, I thought Homer wanted it more than we did," Sterlington coach Kevin Caballero said shortly after the game. "We played the last five minutes. Other than that, I didn't think we had the effort you should have when you're trying to win a district championship. I thought we were passive in front of a nice crowd at home.
"The only thing positive from this game is that it wasn't the first round of the playoffs or the seniors would be done at home for the second year in a row."
Ironically, Homer entered the game as the No. 25 seed, while the Panthers came in at No. 7. Had the regular season ended Friday night, the two teams would have been matched up in the first round of the postseason.
Homer, which led the entire second half, went up by as many nine (36-27 and 38-29) in the third quarter, before the Panthers began to claw their way back into the game. Lance Richard's 3-pointer from the right corner closed the deficit to 38-32 heading into the final frame.
Kadarrius Williams bagged a pair of free throws to give the Pelicans their biggest lead of the fourth quarter, 42-35, with 5:48 remaining.
Sterlington then strung together six straight points. Going at Quakedrick Glass, who was playing with four fouls, Brandon Douglas maneuvered his way inside for a pair of baskets and set up Tevin Davis on the break to bring the Panthers within 42-41 near the four-minute mark.
Homer responded with a 5-0 run. Williams' rebound bucket off of a blocked shot, a Quinshaun Adams free throw and Danny Dawson's steal and layup stretched the Pelicans' advantage to 47-41 with 2:33 on the clock.
Another Douglas deuce from the paint and Richard's fifth 3-pointer of the evening brought the Panthers within 47-46 with 1:28 to play.
Homer's Darien Dunn missed the front end of a one and one at the one-minute mark, but Adams crashed the offensive glass, drew the foul on the putback and hit two clutch free throws to extend the difference back to three.
Derek Price's driving layup drew Sterlington within one for the final time, 49-48, with 35.6 seconds left.
Four ticks later, Germontez Moore converted the front end of a one and one and missed the second. Homer was unable to convert a pair of offensive rebounds, before Davis tracked down a loose ball for the Panthers.
After a timeout, the Panthers misfired on a 3. Following a tie ball on the rebound, the Pelicans were awarded possession.
Fouled instantly on the inbounds pass, Danny Dawson sank the front end of a double bonus to put the Pelicans up 51-48 with four seconds to play.
Sterlington had a last-chance desperation 3 carom off the back of the rim as the final horn sounded.
"Homer made the plays they needed to make and we didn't," Caballero said. "They just beat us."
Sterlington took a 14-7 first quarter lead behind seven points from Douglas.
Down 23-18 midway through the second quarter, the Panthers briefly reclaimed the lead when Richard stroked 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. Richard accounted for nine of the Panthers' 10 second quarter points.
Adams' three-point play closed out the first half scoring, enabling the Pelicans to carry a 26-24 cushion into halftime. Sterlington would never retake the lead.
"What lost if for us was the little stuff," Caballero said. "They offensive rebounded on us on free throws and we turned the ball over two or three times in the fourth quarter. You can get away with that kind of stuff when you're up by 20, but you can't do that against a good team whether you're at home or on the road."
Adams led a balanced attack for the Pelicans with 11 points.
For Sterlington, Richard led all scorers with 17 points and Douglas had 16, including seven in the first and fourth quarters.
Notes: After converting only 2-of-21 3-pointers at home in the first round meeting against the Panthers, the Pelicans sank four long distance shots Tuesday night. … Homer cashed in on 7-of-11 fourth quarter free throws.