LAKE CHARLES – In an all-Vernon Parish matchup, clutch jumpers down the stretch for Hicks proved to be the difference in the state semifinal.
The Pirates outscored Simpson 6-3 in the final minute to seal a 50-43 win Tuesday night and move on to the Class C State Championship.
The No. 6 Broncos knocked off No. 3 Hornbeck to make it to the semis and hung with the No. 2 team in the state after coming into the playoff with low expectations from the outside.
"We expected to keep it close and try to win it at the end," Simpson head coach Jade Losavio said. "Give Hicks credit, they made one or two more plays at the end to seal it. I never thought we panicked or anything. I think we took one or two plays off. I've told them all season that when it comes down to beating good teams, you can't take plays off.
"One of my coaching buddies told me that playing spoiler is sometimes the best basketball you can play. He was right. You can go on the road and spoil people's teams. It was fun. I'm sad it's over with."
Hicks moves on to play No. 4 Pleasant Hill in the championship at 4 p.m. on Friday. The Pirates have defeated the Eagles twice this season, but Hicks head coach Neil Standifer knows he is in for a tough contest.
"We expect a battle," he said. "They are an extremely physical team and are well coached. They are athletic and have four or five guys on the floor that can put up double figures. We'll definitely have our hands full."
Simpson came out of the gate hot, going up 7-2 midway through the first quarter.
Hicks went on a 13-0 run to take a 15-7 lead after a 15-foot jumper by Da'Tron Davis. Davis scored nine of the 13 points in the Pirates' run.
Simpson tied it up with over a minute to go in the half and took the lead going into the break on a tip-in at the buzzer by guard Preston Miller.
Hicks came out of the locker room more composed, and after 13 turnovers in the first half, had just two in the second half.
"Really, the key to the game, to me, was that we were able to take care of the ball better in the second half," Standifer said.
"I don't know if my message (at halftime) was very good. They responded, and we knew coming in that Simpson was a great team. We played them three times this year, and this was the fourth. I told them that Simpson is the defending state champions for a reason, and if you want this and to go to the finals, you're going to have to take it from them."
A layup by Simpson forward Rhett Petre made it 43-40 with just over a minute to go in the game, but Hicks guard Zalen Goodwin drilled a 3 from the corner with 55 seconds to go to increase the lead to 6.
Goodwin had struggled from the floor early but hit both of his 3 pointers in the fourth quarter.
Davis hit a pair of free throws to go up 47-40 with 43 seconds remaining, but Miller hit a 3 on the other end to pull closer.
However, that was the last shot the Broncos would hit, as their season comes to close.
Petre led Simpson with 15 points, and forward Ethan Nash added 11. The sophomore controlled the paint and put pressure on the bigs of Hicks.
"We've played them this year, and we knew how to attack them," Nash said. "We took a few plays off, like coach said, and it killed us. We could have rebounded it a couple of more times and jumped on a loose ball. It could have helped us."
Davis led Hicks with 19 points, and Skylar Phillips barely missed a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
Simpson loses just one player, guard Landon Meyers, heading into next year, and Losavio is cautiously optimistic about his team's future.
"I guess it's exciting, but you can't take things for granted," he said. "You never know what can happen. I told these guys that you never know when schools and districts change. Next thing you know, you're in a whole different bracket. The future does look bright. We're replacing a great senior in Landon Meyers, and it's hard to replace his team leadership. He's a guy in the locker room that keeps everybody calm and under control."