JENNINGS – Big-time players hit big-time shots in big games.
And Jake Gautreaux did just that Wednesday evening.
Midland’s junior guard shrugged off a subpar shooting performance from the floor and bailed out Midland’s Rebels when he canned a 3-pointer from the wing with seven seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Acadia Parish team to a dramatic 50-47 victory over Hathaway in a special playoff game to decide the District 7-B title.
The two teams had finished district play tied with one loss apiece.
“Jake was the guy we wanted shooting,” said Midland coach Todd Briley of Gautreaux. “He’s hit big shots for us all year. He has won some games for us. Make it or miss it, that’s who I wanted shooting it.”
The victory, which gave the Rebels their fifth straight District 7-B title, lifted Midland to 25-7 overall heading into the playoffs next week.
For his part, Gautreaux, who went just 6-for-20 from the floor, including 4-for-11 from beyond the arch, came off a screen in the final seconds and pulled up for the game-winner with a defender in his face.
“I wanted the ball in my hands,” said Gautreaux, who finished the night with a team-high 17 points. “I wanted that shot. I knew I could make it.
“It’s just muscle memory, you just have to keep shooting. If you shoot the right way every time, you’re going to make them.”
Gautreaux declined to take credit for the victory, calling it “a great team win.”
“Everybody played well, I just made the last shot,” he said.
Darren Arceneaux also played a huge roll in getting the Rebels to the point where they had a chance to make a last-second shot.
With Midland trailing 47-42 with just over a minute remaining, the junior forward drilled a 3-pointer to get the Rebels within two. Then after a Hathaway turnover, he canned a midrange jumper from the wing to knot the game at 47-47 with 54 seconds left on the clock.
“Darren made some big plays down the stretch,” said Briley of Arceneaux, who had seven points and eight rebounds on the night. “And he had some big rebounds as well.”
Alan Vondenstein grabbed probably the biggest rebound of the game with 30 seconds remaining to set up Gautreaux’s heroics.
“We made a couple of big plays down the stretch,” said Briley. “All of our guys made some big plays at one time or another. They all contributed and like we’ve been saying, it’s a team win. We never quit, we kept fighting and we gave ourselves a chance.”
Things didn’t exactly start out the way Briley would have liked, however.
The Rebels shot just 25 percent from the floor in the first half and found themselves trailing by three (25-22) at the half.
They rallied in the third quarter behind six points from Gautreaux and five from Vondenstein and took a 38-35 advantage into the final period.
“We struggled all night,” said Briley, whose Rebels shot just 31 percent from the floor on the night. “Hathaway controlled the tempo of the game and we just never really could get into the flow of it.”
Midland’s slim lead entering the fourth quarter didn’t last long.
Hathaway’s Dylan Augustine took over in the first few minutes of the final frame and scored the Hornets’ first eight points before Midland finally got a shot to fall.
“We didn’t guard Augustine as well as we had guarded him the last time,” said Briley. “He just had his way with us a lot and that hurt us.”
What also hurt Midland was its offense, or lack of.
The Rebels committed five of their 13 turnovers in the fourth quarter and they scored just two points in the first four minutes of the final frame.
“We had a lot of unforced turnovers,” said Briley. “But what hurt us the most was that we didn’t move the ball well on offense.
“When we have been playing well, we’ve really been moving the ball: passing, penetrating, kicking, hitting the open guys. Real good ball movement and tonight, it just wasn’t there.
“It was like we couldn’t hit (shots) and then we started forcing shots instead of staying within what we had been doing well and I think that was a lot of the problem tonight.”
When the Rebels did move the ball and work inside, Vondenstein flourished. He scored 15 points and recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds.
Devin Gautreaux knocked down two of his five 3-point attempts and finished the night with eight points while Randy Primeaux scored two and Stephen Primeaux had one.
Augustine paced Hathaway with a game-high 28 points and Kane Kershaw added 10 points before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.