Ponchatoula, Higgins and Helen Cox combined to claim the top honors on the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Class 5A All-State basketball teams.
Ponchatoula, with its all-senior lineup, was a dominant 5A girls team all season, earning the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, then barnstorming to the school’s first state championship by ousting No. 2 Walker High 47-29 in the state championship game in Lake Charles.
Helen Cox guard Marlain Veal was selected as the Outstanding Player on the boys squad after averaging 15.3 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per game.
The LSWA also honored Higgins coach Marshall Jackson, who led the 20th-seeded Hurricanes to the 5A semifinals in the final season of his 33-yard coaching career. Jackson, who announced his retirement, netted Coach of the Year honors from a panel of sportswriters from across the state after getting his team within two wins of a state title.
Two more Top 28 coaches, Carlos Sample, of state champion Scotlandville, and Rusty Johnson, of semifinalist Byrd, also were contenders for the top coaching honor.
It was a Ponchatoula sweep on the girls side. Senior post Jyar Francis, a Wichita State signee, led the Green Wave to its first title and first title-game appearance since 1977. Francis, who averaged 20.2 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, was selected as the Outstanding Player.
Ponchatoula’s Patricia Landaiche was voted Coach of the Year after guiding Ponchatoula to a 32-3 record in just her second season as the head coach of her alma mater.
Landaiche is now 57-9 in her two seasons, with a quarterfinal appearance and state title. Korey Arnold, of state runner-up Walker High, also was in the mix for the coaching honor.
Ponchatoula’s title-game MVP, Arianna Hamilton (19.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists), was a second-team choice by the LSWA.
Veal is joined on the boys first team by Melvin Frazier of Higgins, Chad Lott of Byrd state title game MVP Ja’Vonte Smart of Scotlandville and Danny Cohen of runner-up Natchitoches Central.
Second-team selections included LaMarcus Lee of Scotlandville, along with Cephus Gix of Ouachita, Isaiah Buggs of Ruston, Corey Davis of Lafayette (14 ppg., 9 rpg.) and Cameron Lard of Natchitoches Central.
Joining Ponchatoula’s Francis on the girls first team was MVP candidate Cara Ursin of Destrehan, a sophomore who led Class 5A girls in scoring (26.3 ppg., 11.5 rpg.). The rest of the squad included Jamie Gibson of Walker, Kierra Anthony of New Iberia and Abby Lee of West Monroe.
Joining PHS’ Hamilton on the second team were Taylor Berry of Mount Carmel, Miracle Simon of Sam Houston (18.2 ppg., 11 rpg.), Danayea Charles of Helen Cox and Princess Cohen of Natchitoches Central.