The Parkway Panthers let a golden opportunity to win the outright District 1-5A boys basketball championship slip away Friday night at home against the Evangel Christian Academy Eagles.
Parkway led by 12 early in the third quarter and everything was going the Panthers’ way. But thanks to a couple of turnovers and a missed shot, the Eagles scored three buckets in the span of about a minute to get within six.
Parkway went back up by eight, but Evangel rallied again and tied it at 42 going into the fourth quarter on an off-balance 3-point shot at the buzzer.
The game remained close in the fourth, but Evangel made the plays at the end and the Eagles pulled out a 55-51 victory. The Panthers hurt themselves down the stretch, missing a couple of crucial free throws, including the front end of a one-and-one, and failing to get the rebound on an Evangel miss with the game tied.
Parkway finished the regular season 20-10 overall and 10-2 in district. The Panthers will share the 1-5A title with Southwood (22-6, 10-2), which defeated Airline 67-58 Friday. Evangel (15-14, 9-3), which avenged a 37-36 loss to Parkway at home on Jan. 26, finished one game back.
Parkway and Southwood will face off Saturday at 2 p.m. at Parkway to determine 1-5A’s first-place playoff representative. Regardless of the outcome, the teams will be district co-champions. That’s a remarkable achievement for Parkway, which hasn’t been known for its basketball success for most of its history.
Parkway defeated Southwood 60-50 on Tuesday at Southwood. The Cowboys won the first district meeting 47-43 on Jan. 22 at Parkway.
The good news for the Panthers is that they may have not to beat the Cowboys again to make the playoffs. Parkway’s win over then 21-win Southwood vaulted the Panthers from No. 37 to No. 32 in the latest unofficial 5A power rankings released by the LHSAA Thursday.
The top 32 teams generally make the playoffs. District champions automatically qualify regardless of their ranking. A district champ with a ranking lower than 32 would knock the No. 32 team out.
Southwood’s win over Airline should help Parkway, which has a slim .09 lead over No. 33 Hahnville, which lost to Thibodaux 79-76 in its regular-season finale.
Terrace Marshall Jr. and Kamren Davis led Parkway with 15 and 14 points, respectively, against Evangel. Keondre Wudtee added seven. Trey Webber and Justin Rogers scored six each.
Parkway led by as many as nine points in the first half. Evangel hit back-to-back 3-pointers to get within three. But the Panthers closed the second quarter strong and led 33-25 at the break.
After the wild third quarter, Parkway took a 48-44 midway though the fourth. Plagued by turnovers and an inability to score finish the lane, the Panthers had a four-minute scoring drought.
Evangel took advantage and led 50-48 with 45.1 seconds. The Panthers finally ended the drought and tied it at 50. The Eagles took a 52-50 lead with 25.5 seconds left on a putback of a missed baseline jumper.
The Panthers had a chance to tie it but made just one of two free throws with 16.4 seconds left. The Eagles hit two free throws with 13.3 seconds left to go up by three.
The Panthers tried to tie it with a 3-pointer with about 3 seconds left, but the contested shot came up a little short.
Elsewhere, Airline closed a tough season with the loss to Southwood. Jacob Guest led the Vikings with 14 points in his final game. KJ Bilbo added 13 and Trey Ivy 10. The Vikings finished the season 11-20 overall and 2-10 in district.
Haughton also ended a tough season, but the Bucs did it on a good note, knocking off Captain Shreve 66-51 at home. The Bucs finished 4-22 and 1-11 in district. It was Haughton’s first district win since the 2012-13 season.
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com