Lutcher saw a 16-point lead dwindle down to three points in the closing seconds of its game against visiting South Terrebonne on Tuesday might.
South Terrebonne’s Christian Arceneaux got hot down the stretch, knocking down several 3-points as part of his game-high 23 points. His final 3-pointer with 43 seconds left in the game narrow the Gators’ deficit to three points at 56-53.
The Gators were forced to foul and Lutcher’s Jacoby Williams, Copeland Williams and Mehki Patterson all missed the front ends of one-and-ones over the final 43 seconds that would have made it a two-possession game.
Patterson’s miss came with 8.5 seconds left in the game but the Lutcher defense rose to the occasion, now even allowing South Terrebonne to get off a final shot to preserve the Bulldogs’ hard-fought 56-53 victory.
“We kind of put it in cruise control a little too soon,” Lutcher coach J.P. Piper said. “They (the Gators) knocked down a couple of big shots but I felt my guys responded and locked it up. If we make free throws, it’s nothing. We will be shooting free throws (in practice). We shoot them every day. That’s an anomaly. All three of those guys are good free throw shooters. We just may have lost our focus a little bit down the stretch.”
What the Class 3A Bulldogs didn’t lose was the game. The win over a 12-5 Class 4A Gators squad came off the heels of a 74-40 loss to 14-7 Plaquemine, another Class 4A school. The win improved Lutcher to 12-2, but more importantly, didn’t allow a losing streak, no matter how small, to develop.
“We had to step up our defense,” said Copeland Williams. “We took a big loss at Plaquemine the other night so we just wanted to come back.”
The Bulldogs came back and kept a losing streak from developing.
“We are not letting that happen. It’s not slipping away that easy. If teams want to beat us, they have a fight on their hands,” Copeland Williams said.
Lutcher won its first five games a year ago but ended its season at 13-13. This version of the Bulldogs seems poised to avoid a similar fate.
“I’m excited about it. It’s been a fun year,” Piper said of the current Bulldogs squad. “The last couple of years haven’t always been kind of fun. I kinda was really fighting the players to try to get them to do what I wanted them to do instead of what they wanted to do and it just wasn’t a great buy-in. That’s not unusual with a new coach, new system and new way of doing things.
“Now, in my third year, most of these kids don’t know anything else but Coach Piper so they are buying in a lot easier and I know them. It’s been fun building a personal relationship. It’s been fun to coach them, and obviously, winning helps.”
As coach and players have become more familiar with one another, everyone seems to have become more flexible.
A change for the Bulldogs this season has been a switch to playing zone defense.
“I was trying to play exclusively man-to-man defense. It proved to be difficult. A lot of our kids struggle to get to practice – especially over the holidays with transportation – so I simplified things a lot. We play mostly zone now, which is a little easier to teach and requires less drilling,” explained Piper, a former Nicholls State head coach.
It’s a switch welcomed by the players.
“The zone, I feel like it is better for us so we wouldn’t get as tired as fast as playing man-to-man. Some of us can’t guard the ball that well so it’s good to play 2-3 zone or whatever type of zone we play,” said Copeland Williams, one of several three-year starters for the Bulldogs.
There also has been some changes on offense.
“We simplified the offense a lot and just let the talented kids go make plays. We have some basic spacing but we can tell them go, share the ball, be unselfish, but look to score every time you touch the ball and take what the defense gives you,” said Piper.
The Bulldogs, who at No. 6 is the highest seed among River Parish schools, also have a good mixture of veterans and younger players.
“Copeland Williams have been a starter for me for three years,” Piper said. “Mehki Patterson has been a starter for me for three years. Those two guys are really the mainstays. Jacoby Williams is playing this year from football. He’s super talented. He’s our best player.
“The combination of those three older guys and Kale Williams has been with me for three years. He hasn’t been a starter all three years but he’s been in the program.”
Jacoby Williams had a team-high 17 points against South Terrebonne. The Bulldogs had balanced scoring with Copeland Williams and freshman Jeremiah Pierre each adding eight points. Jaedon Pierre, tossed in seven points.
Jeremiah and Jaedon, who provide youthful energy, are twin brothers. Both are freshmen, as is D’Wayne Winfield
“D’Wayne Winfield, who was a contributor in football, has gotten a lot of minutes as a freshmen, which is pretty significant. We have Jaedon and Jeremiah Pierre, who are twins. They are really talented freshmen. Jeremiah starts for me. He’s pretty special. He has a chance to be a really good high school player,” said Piper.
Lutcher is still a week away from starting District 9-3A play and the Bulldogs expect to be a factor in this year’s race.
“We all play together. We all play as one. We don’t separate anybody out. We just work hard and want it more,” said Copeland Williams.