Fourth quarter rally not enough in Class 5A title game

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By LaMar Gafford, Contributing writer

LAKE CHARLES — Natchitoches Central put up a great fight in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough. Nearly rallying from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit, the Chiefs lost 63-57 to Zachary in the Class 5A championship game Saturday at Burton Coliseum. “I’m beyond proud of my guys,” Sepulvado said. “There’s so many teams that would kill to be in the position that we’re in tonight. Our guys fought hard. We always talk about a 32-minute fight every single night and they did that.” At halftime, NCHS (23-2) trailed 31-22 and it would fall behind by as much as 15 in the second half.

Behind 54-42 with 6:40 to go in the game, it went on a 9-1 run to pull within four with 2:31 left.  However, Zachary regrouped and held on for the victory — its first in program history. “We kind of got down and we could have had an easy opportunity to roll over and start letting stuff snowball, but our kids dug deep,” Sepulvado said.

“We just ran out of time, but I’m beyond proud of my guys, win or lose. They worked their butts off — the seniors all the way down to the freshmen.” Chiefs senior Darius Young had 16 points and seven rebounds, while Sean Lacour posted 15 points and three assists. While it was a tough way to end the season, Sepulvado expressed that his returning players know what they must do to return to the Top 28.

NCHS was making its first Class 5A championship game appearance since making three straight from 2014-2016 — winning twice in 2014 and 2016. “Those juniors, sophomores and freshmen, they know they have a big standard to live up to,” Sepulvado said. “These guys got us to the very last game of the season and got us right there. They know they have to go to work. What’s great about them is that they’ve witnessed seniors every single day that have come in and worked. They see what it takes to get to this point, but they have to understand that they have to do a little bit more to win this last game.”

Broncos sophomore Brandon Rodgers-Hardy won Most Outstanding Player honors after posting 22 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Zachary (26-6) shot 54 percent from the field.