Country Day defeats Christian Life in overtime

HAMMOND — Freshman J.C. Younger hit a 16-foot jumper off a one-dribble move with five seconds left in overtime to lift Metairie Park Country Day to a 43-41 Class 1A boys semifinal victory over rival Christian Life Academy Saturday at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s The Advocate/Southeast Regional basketball tournament at Southeastern Louisiana University’s University Center.

After CLA junior forward Johnathan Stove scored inside to tie the contest at 41 with 1:40 remaining, fourth-seeded Country Day (25-10) ran an effective stall and tried to run a play to free up junior 6-foot-9 forward Scott Plaisance.

“We were trying to get the ball to Scott off a screen,” Younger said. “I just drove and hit my favorite shot right at the junction area.”

Defending state champion and top-seeded Christian Life (27-6) passed to midcourt and called timeout with 1.7 seconds. Malik Harrison inbounded from midcourt and passed to Stove. Stove got the ball right back to Harrison, who missed a tough 26-footer at the buzzer.

“I’m really proud of my guys right now,” Country Day coach Mike McGuire said. “We won our last playoff game in overtime. We got down late in the game, but the guys didn’t get rattled. They executed at the end, and J.C. hit a big shot.”

Christian Life has beaten Country Day three times in the state title game. Country Day knocked out CLA in 2009 and 2011.

“When Country Day plays CLA, it’s always a war,” McGuire said. “It’s a blessing to get to Monroe and play for another state championship.”

R.J. Hertzog scored off the overtime tip. Country Day tied it on two Plaisance free throws. The Crusaders went into a stall, but Country Day’s Morgan LeCorgne had a steal at midcourt and scored on an acrobatic layup to put his team up 41-39.

“Morgan is our best defender,” McGuire said. “He’s our only senior and I kind of had feeling he’d get in passing lane and make a big play. It just was a total team effort and great win.”

Stove picked up his second foul with 2:19 remaining in the first quarter, and Hertzog picked up his second foul early in the second quarter and both spent the remainder of the half on the bench.

CLA weathered that adversity, and Khalid Smith banked in a shot as the teams were tied at 16 at the half.

Country Day went on a 16-2 run to open the third quarter. Michael Corchiani and Younger hit 3-point shots in that run. Plaisance, the younger brother of LSU women’s basketball standout Theresa Plaisance, scored inside to complete the run as his team led 32-18.

CLA roared back with a 19-4 run over two quarters to take a 37-36 lead with 3:15 remaining on two Hertzog free throws.

“With our two leading scorers in foul trouble, it was tough to find a rhythm in the first half,” CLA coach Mark Cascio said. “I was proud of the way we battled back from 14 down to take the lead. We got a shot at the end of overtime and that’s all I could ask for.”

Plaisance had game highs of 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Stove scored 16 points in 25 minutes. Hertzog added 11 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.

Country Day had a season-low six turnovers, while CLA had 11.