MAUREPAS – Denham Springs was missing both its emotional leader, as well as its lead guard and one of its top scorers.
With Micah Banks sidelined with a knee injury, the third-seeded Yellow Jackets rallied around their senior point guard by shooting a high percentage with balanced scoring in a 71-57 victory Wednesday over sixth-seeded Springfield in the Livingston Parish Tournament at Maurepas High School.
“Everyone’s responsibility level just went up,” Denham Springs coach Kevin Caballero said. “I was happy with the effort because they’re used to playing with Micah. It was good to see them take a little more ownership of the team, both offensively and defensively.”
Caballero credited the impact of players – DJ Williams and Kaleb Drummer – who recently joined the team after playing football, both of whom filled in with additional scoring or play-making in Banks’ absence.
Williams, in his second game since helping the Yellow Jackets to the Class 5A state regional playoffs, scored 18 of his season-high 21 points in the first half, while Drummer scored all 18 of points off the bench.
Senior center Xavier Miles also produced 20 points for Denham Springs (8-3), which advanced to Friday’s semifinal at 4:30 p.m. around against either Live Oak or Albany.
“Micah is a big-time player on this team and we fed off his energy,” Williams said. “We had to find other ways to facilitate the ball. I knew I had to step up and take ownership of the team.”
Denham Springs was efficient from the field, shooting 57 percent (29 of 51) for the game. The Yellow Jackets didn’t attempt a 3-point shot.
“This team is more of a blue-collar type team and so far, it’s worked eight times,” Caballero said of his team’s victory total. “If we can get it to continue that would be good.”
First-year Springfield coach John Hii, whose team reduced a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to 10 points (64-54 with 4:02 to play) praised his team’s effort, while crediting the opponent.
“I’m really proud of my guys,” Hii said. “I tell them all the time that sometimes they’re (the opposition) just going to make really tough shots. They’re going to be the better team that day and Denham was the better team. They played really well.”
DSHS, which led 16-4 in the first five minutes following a 12-0 run, led 18-12 after the opening quarter and went 8-of-11 from the field over a four-minute stretch of the second quarter for a 34-19 lead.
Not only where the Yellow Jackets able to handle some of the full-court pressure from the Bulldogs (3-7), but were very unselfish in the half-court, making the extra pass to teammates with better shots at the goal.
C.J. Johnson, who scored eight points, fed Williams for a lay-in that provided DSHS with a 15-point lead that dwindled to 38-29 at halftime when Springfield closed on a 10-4 spurt.
Guard Tishaun Thompson provided the Bulldogs with a lift, making two of his four 3-pointers and wound up with 17 points. Post player Bryce Johnson topped his team’s scoring efforts with 26 points.
“He’s a guy I’ve told over and over, if he’s open to shoot the ball,” Hii said of Thompson. “He really got us going and Bryce played well, too.”
Said Caballero, “You have to credit them. No. 2 (Johnson) played well in the post for them. I think they’ve got a good team and played well.”
DSHS made 8 of its first 10 shots of the third quarter, fueling an 8-0 run that Drummer capped with a three-point play on a driving lay-in that made it 49-31 at the 3:34 mark.
Miles scored six points in the paint in a 90-second span and hit Johnson in stride following a steal for a lay-up for a 57-38 cushion.
“The football guys (Williams, Drummer) got a little winded, but for the most part the effort they gave was probably the difference,” Caballero said. “X (Miles) got off to a slow start, but he picked it up in the second half.”