BATON ROUGE -- Given the disappointment associated with last year’s losing season and state playoff void, Denham Springs High is trying to build toward a brighter future.
More than five months before the season of the 2017-18 campaign the Yellow Jackets value any potential building block in that process.
Despite being without three players DSHS closed out the Woodlawn Summer League with a convincing 40-30 victory Thursday over the host Panthers, giving the Jackets a break-even mark in the four-week competition.
“It’s a good note to go into the season strong,” sophomore guard Keondre Brown said. “We had a bad season (10-24) last year. So we want to go into the season strong. We want to make the playoffs.”
Denham trailed for just over a total of 2 minutes in the first quarter, grabbing the lead (6-5) for good on Brown’s driving lay-up and never looking back.
Brown was the Jackets lone double-figure scorer with 14 points, but his teammates chipped in with a balanced effort that featured 19 points from the post trio of Dorsett Washington (7), Xavier Miles (6) and Bryan Harvey (6), the latter who returned from an injury after a three-week absence.
“They’re a big part of our team,” Brown said of Washington, Miles and Harvey. “We have a whole lot of guards, so without them we wouldn’t be able to rebound as much as we do.”
Third-year coach Kevin Caballero also praised the play of starting guard Ray Whitley, whose tough, hanging drive followed Brown’s basket and was part of his team’s 10-7 first-quarter lead.
“Ray brought a lot of energy,” he said. “He made some good decisions both offensively and defensively. Woodlawn had a kid that could really shoot it. I thought we did a good job with our decision making.”
DSHS flexed its interior muscle in the second half, opening as much as a 21-13 advantage before settling for a 21-16 halftime lead following a Woodlawn 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left.
Brown converted a three-point play following an offensive rebound for a 13-9 edge and Harvey followed with a three-point play to make it 16-11 with 3 minutes left before halftime.
Washington’s putback, the third try at the basket for Denham, and a later free throw with 34.3 seconds left accounted for his team’s eight-point cushion.
“I felt like if we could get it inside we’d have a little better chance and play inside-out,” Caballero said. “I was glad to see Bryan back and get some minutes.”
Brown made two of his team’s three field goals in the third quarter, recovering a loose ball in the lane for a lay-in, and finishing a drive after an offensive rebound to result in a 26-20 lead with just over 4 minutes remaining.
Miles took a pass and drove from the edge of the free-throw line to cap the quarter, a stretch where the Yellow Jackets limited Woodlawn to 1-of-10 shooting and held the Panthers without a field goal over the last 4 minutes, 28 seconds.
“I thought we defended well on the perimeter,” said Caballero, whose team limited Woodlawn to 26% shooting. “I didn’t think we rebounded well defensively and gave them some second-chance opportunities, but that will come.”
Washington, who was fouled on a fast-break attempt, made a pair of free throws in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, providing Denham Springs High with its first double-figure lead (30-20 of the game.
The Jackets maintained that margin on Washington’s 10-footer and Whitley made it 35-22 with 3:19 to play on a three-point play following a driving layup.
Denham, which shot 39%, twice matched that margin in the final 2 minutes of play on Brown’s steal and layup and again on Harvey’s basket on a feed from Washington with 8 seconds left.
“We’re going to have some voluntary workouts in July,” Caballero said. “We wanted to end with a win and help the kids to feel good about themselves and look forward to the upcoming year.”
Brown added: “Everyone has to work on their game and get better. Our team should be better than last year.”