Tigers advance to semis

DHS' Stephon Sullivan slam-dunks on a fast break opportunity in the win against North Webster Friday night at the Gold Dome in St. Amant.

DHS boys’ basketball head coach Barry Whittington is a master teacher at the school and was scheduled to be in California on Friday, March 7 for a teacher’s conference. However he did not book his flight to the West Coast. He knew he’d have other business to take care of, like knocking off the no. 17 North Webster basketball team and advancing his no. 8 seeded Tigers to the semifinal round of the LHSAA 3A playoffs.

“I figured I would have to work today and I was glad it came true,” Whittington said after DHS beat North Webster 74-69 in a double overtime thriller at the Gold Dome at St. Amant High School.

The Tigers trailed most of the game after immediately falling behind 9-0 in the opening minutes. North Webster didn’t relinquish the lead to Donaldsonville until 4:30 to play in the game. Whittington said it was a hard fought game for his Tigers.

“I’m emotional just thinking about my kids and how hard they’ve worked,” Whittington said in tears after the game. “I’m speechless right now and don’t have the words to describe it.”

After a big deficit to start the game, Donaldsonville only trailed 22-21 at the half, but North Webster would stretch the lead to five going into the fourth quarter ahead 38-33.

With an up-tempo game despite both coaches initially planning to have a slower pace, fatigue began to set in for the two teams aiming to advance to the Top-28. That’s when the tide swung in Donaldsonville’s favor.

“Our depth is our strength, we had a freshman come in and everybody off the bench play and it’s unbelievable to see how good we could be,” Whittington said, talking about his reserve lineup.

The Tigers’ leading scoring for the night was sophomore Braxton Bernard, who off the bench racked up 19 points, including 12 in the second half. Bernard’s play down the stretch helped Donaldsonville force the first overtime, scoring to five straight points capped by the bucket to tie the game at 54 with 43 seconds to play in regulation.

Bernard said after the game he had been in a slump the past few games and “I just had to come out here and play team ball and help us get a win.”

“We deserve it,” Bernard said. “We put in the work the whole season and we’ve been through ups and downs but coming out today we showed everybody what we’re really made of.”

Bernard said at the half, Whittington told the team to pull themselves together because “we knew they were a good team and he told us the game could change at any moment.”

“So, we just had to keep working hard.”

With the Tigers picking up pace, North Webster responded as well. Head coach Rodney Thrash kept the pressure on the Tigers and players Montavious and Dontavious Smith controlled both ends of the court - until foul trouble and fatigue set in late for the Purple Knights.

Whittington said being able to pull out the win against a tough opponent like North Webster is an “overwhelming feeling.”

“I’m happy right now but I’m coming down from this high already thinking about the work we still have to do,” Whittington said. “I’m happy with this but I’ll cry more tears when we win the state championship.”

The no.8 Tigers travel to Lake Charles to compete against no. 4 Richwood High School of Richwood, La. on Thursday, March 13. Tip off scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.