Trey Kirkendoll made the front end of a two-shot foul with 2.4 seconds remaining in overtime and Sterlington's desperation 3 ricocheted off the top of the backboard as Lakeview squeezed out an 81-80 Class 2A regional playoff victory in front of a record crowd at the Panthers' Den.
“Both teams played hard,” Sterlington coach Kevin Caballero said. “It was a war — a great high school basketball game.”
Battling back from a 66-52 deficit midway through the fourth quarter, Sterlington (25-8) needed a near-miraculous comeback to keep the game going.
Lance Richard's 3-pointer from the right wing and Derek Price's driving layup drew the Panthers within single digits, 66-57, with just under three minutes to play.
Lakeview's Malik Metoyer and Sterlington's Matt Allred then traded a pair of free throws, bringing the score to 68-59.
Both teams turned the ball over on their next possession, before Adrio Bailey's breakaway layup put the Gators up by 11.
Jaylon Wade's 3-pointer from the right corner trimmed the margin to 70-62, but the Panthers were running out of time with only 2:14 remaining.
After the Panthers made a defensive stop, Brandon Douglas sank both ends of a one-and-one to draw Sterlington with 70-64.
Moments later, Tay Hardy slipped behind the Panthers' press for a reverse layup, pushing the spread back to eight, 72-64.
Both teams came up empty on their next two possessions, before Allred came up with a steal in the backcourt and passed to Douglas, whose trifecta closed the gap to 72-67 with 1:26 to play.
Jerald Bush and Allred both knocked down both ends of a one-and-one, making the score 74-69 with 1:05 on the clock.
Lakeview missed both ends of a double bonus on its next sequence.
Back on the other end, Lance Richard assisted on Douglas' bucket from underneath, pulling the Panthers within 74-71 with 51 seconds to go.
Bush sank the front end of a double bonus on the Gators' next possession.
Sterlington's next two possessions resulted in a missed 3 and an unforced turnover in the backcourt, but the Gators were unable to extend the lead.
Regaining possession on a defensive rebound, the Panthers pulled within 75-73 as Douglas converted two clutch free throws with 19 seconds left in regulation.
Fouled instantly on the inbounds pass, Ronald Bell made the second end of a double bonus, putting the Gators up 76-73 with 17.5 seconds to go.
Allred then drilled a critical 3-pointer from the top of the arc and Lakeview missed a layup as time expired, sending the game into overtime tied at 76-76 and working the crowd into a frenzy.
“I can honestly say that I haven't been in a high school atmosphere like this game since I played — and that was a long time ago,” Caballero said.
Page 2 of 3 - Lakeview controlled the tip to start the four-minute overtime, but the Panthers soon regained possession off of a defensive rebound.
Working his way down low, Douglas gave the Panthers their only lead of the second half, 78-76.
Two possessions later Charles Browder swished two free throws, tying the game at 78.
After blocking a shot on the defensive end, Bailey scored on a third-shot rebound to put the Gators in front 80-78 with 2:22 remaining.
Sterlington missed two free throws on its next offensive trip, but regained control of the ball with a turnover on the defensive end.
Douglas then hit two free throws, squaring the scoreboard, once again, at 80-80 with 1:26 left.
Lakeview misfired twice on its next sequence.
Sterlington then ran the clock to under 10 seconds, before coming up empty.
Streaking for the basket, Browder drew the foul while driving to the basket and made the first shot to break the tie.
Sterlington had given its best shot only to fall a point shy.
“Effort-wise, I told my kids to have no regrets,” Caballero said, fighting back tears. “I can assure you that I didn't see a one of them that should have any regrets — not a one of them. Each one of them played as hard as I've ever seen them play. They didn't want to go home.”
It was a particularly painful loss for the Panthers, who graduate their entire starting lineup from Friday night's game. Matt Allred, Brandon Douglas and Derek Price have been together for the past four years, Lance Richard came on board as a sophomore and Filip Duda joined the Panthers as an exchange student this season.
Arriving at Sterlington while the junior high and high school were still housed on the same campus, Allred moved into the starting lineup as an eighth-grader.
“Matthew Allred will be the last five-year letterman at Sterlington High School,” Caballero said.
Three-pointers by Tay Hardy and Metoyer staked the Gators to an early 10-3 lead.
Allred's transition bucket off the outlet from Douglas finished a 10-2 run, putting the Panthers up 13-12.
Douglas' steal and breakaway dunk enabled the Panthers to carry a 17-14 lead into the second period.
Sterlington forged ahead by as many as seven — its biggest lead of the game — at 21-14 and 23-16 early in the second quarter, but the Gators soon tied the game at 23.
Capping an 11-point quarter, Hardy buried a 3-ball from the top of the circle at the buzzer, knotting the score at 31 at halftime. In all, the first half saw the lead change hands five times with three deadlocks.
Quickly seizing the momentum to start the second half, the Gators went up 37-31 as Trey Kirkendoll and Metoyer nailed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.
Page 3 of 3 - Lakeview held a 53-46 advantage as time wound down in the third quarter.
Up 61-52, Lakeview's lead swelled to 66-52 as Kirkendoll knocked down a trey and drove the lane for an authoritative one-hand slam.
Hardy, who fouled out with 1:05 remaining in regulation, and Bush, who accounted for 15 second-half points, shared scoring honors for the Gators (23-7) with 20 apiece. Kirkendoll tacked on 12 and Bailey 10.
For Sterlington, Douglas led all scorers with 30 points — 20 in the second half. Richard pumped in six 3-pointers to finish with 20. Allred put 16 points on the book, including nine in the fourth quarter, despite sitting out the final 4:13 of the third quarter after being whistled for his fourth foul.
Notes: Prior to the game, a moment of silence was observed in honor of Don Seawood. A CECP basketball and football coach at Lakeview, Seawood passed away earlier this week. Funeral services will be held Saturday, Feb. 23. … Lakeview, the No. 10 seed, advances to play No. 2 University Lab in the quarterfinals on Tuesday in Baton Rouge.