Sterlington 60, Ferriday 40
Sometimes the scoreboard can be deceiving.
DeMarcus Matthews and Antonio Gray combined for 35 points as Sterlington opened District 2-2A play with a 60-40 homecourt victory over Ferriday on Friday night.
Despite the final 20-point differential, the Panthers were not able to find a comfort zone until the final few minutes.
Leading by 15 late in the first half, Sterlington saw its lead shrink to two in the third quarter, before outscoring the Trojans 14-7 in the final period. A late 9-0 run resulted in a misleading final score.
"People are going to see the score in the paper and see that we won by 20 points," Sterlington coach Kevin Caballero said, "but it didn't feel like a 20-point win."
Sterlington trailed only once, 9-8, but soon regained the lead for good on a three-point play by D'Adrienne Glass en route to building a 14-9 first quarter lead.
Stringing together 11 unanswered points, the Panthers built a 27-12 spread in the second period.
With Ferriday getting into early foul trouble, the Panthers were in the bonus less than three minutes into quarter number two.
Matthews nailed four straight free throws to trigger the 11-0 flurry, Gray swished a 12-foot jumper, Colvin and Jaylon Wade both scored from point-blank range and Jaylon King made the second end of a two-shot foul to give the Panthers what appeared to be a comfortable 27-12 cushion with 1:19 to play in the half.
Ferriday countered with an 8-0 run of its own. DaJohn Mitchell tallied five quick points with a steal and layup and a three-point play. Ronald Williams then sank both sides of a bonus to bring the Trojans within 27-19 at halftime.
"That was my fault," Caballero said of the Panthers' late first half lapse. "I had those kids with a little foul trouble and I figured I could hide them (on the bench) and give them a little rest. Then, we had some foolish turnovers."
Matthews' 3-pointer widened the Panthers' lead to 32-23 early in the second quarter, but the Trojans continued to hang around.
Ferriday drew within two at 32-30 and again at 35-33 on Mitchell's layup with 2:43 to play in the third quarter, before Sterlington began to reassert itself.
Wade connected on a floater and a pair of free throws on the Panthers' next two possessions, extending the margin to 39-33.
Matthews' breakaway basket and a Glass free throw pushed the lead back to double digits, 43-33.
Holding the Trojans to one shot on the defensive end, Matthews grabbed the defensive rebound.
Back on the other end, Gray's floating 3-pointer at the buzzer enabled the Panthers to carry a 46-33 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Mitchell's runner and Davis' 3-pointer kept Ferriday within striking distance, 46-38.
Matthews made the back end of a shooting foul on the Panthers' next offensive trip, then spotted Wade underneath for an easy deuce.
Following a Ferriday turnover, Glass went crashing to the floor on the break, but pushed the ball forward to Colvin for the easy basket and a 51-38 lead.
Marlon Jackson's bucket reduced the deficit to 51-40 with four minutes to play, before the Panthers finished strong with nine unanswered points.
"I was proud of the way our kids competed and held them to seven points in the fourth quarter," Caballero said. "I knew their guys were going to be physical, but I thought we matched their physicality."
Still, Caballero isn't looking forward to the return matchup in Ferriday on Jan. 28.
"It's going to be a war over there," Caballero said. "Coach (Kirfred) Watkins does a good job over there. Their record is no indication of the type of team they have."
Matthews totaled 19 points on 10-of-12 free throw shooting and provided a physical presence on the boards.
"DeMarcus was really active tonight," Caballero said. "If he continues to play like that, good things can happen for us."
Gray added 16 points and Glass 10 from the point.
"Antonio Gray scored in double figures and played hard defensively," Caballero said. "Semaj Colvin didn't have his best game offensively (six points), but he made some big plays defensively and rebounded the ball."
Mitchell was Ferriday's lone double figures scorer with 14 points.
Sterlington is on the road for two next week with stops at Oak Grove on Tuesday and Jonesboro-Hodge on Friday.
Notes: Ferriday, which dressed out only six players in the Sicily Island Tournament due to illness, had 11 players suit up Friday night. … Sterlington made 20-of-26 free throws (76.9 percent).