They first appeared on each other’s radar as burgeoning basketball programs initially brought together by district play.
Lafayette Christian and Madison Prep were part of the same Class B district when the Jarell Martin-led Chargers went on to the 2013 state championship.
They subsequently moved to Class 1A and crossed paths in last year’s state semifinal where Madison Prep eliminated Lafayette Christian 61-50.
With MPA set to move up in classification after this season, the two programs will settle the issue over the state’s top Class 1A team when the top-seeded Chargers (34-1) face the third-seeded Knights (30-3) in Saturday’s state championship game.
Tip-off for the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 tournament game is 2 p.m. at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“Both programs have grown,” LCA coach Byron Starks. “We’re both programs on the rise and both have a good supporting cast of players. It will be a good opportunity for each team to showcase their talent.”
While this represents the third straight title-game appearance for MPA, which lost in 2014 to Country Day, LCA advanced to its first state championship game with a 72-59 semifinal victory Wednesday over No. 2 Arcadia.
The Knights are riding a 19-game win streak and have not lost since a 55-39 setback against St. Augustine in the St. Thomas More’s Sunkist Shootout on Dec. 28.
“We’ve made it to the end of the season. Now our goal is to finish the task,” said Starks, 132-42 in this third season at LCA. “Last year we lost to Madison Prep in the semifinals. This year we’ve got to the finals and we’re going to go out and give them our best shot.”
MPA has been equally strong, reeling off 32 consecutive victories, including a 47-32 semifinal win over Country Day, and has not lost to an in-state opponent. The Chargers dropped a 95-64 decision to nationally-ranked Jackson-Callaway in the third game of the season.
“They’re a phenomenal ballclub,” MPA coach Jeff Jones said. “They’re a lot like we are. They like to get up and down the floor and so do we. I remember Byron Starks when he was at Northside Christian. They’re a small school with big-school talent. I think he (Starks) and I believed we’d probably get the chance to meet for a 1A title. And now we are.”
With five double-digit scorers MPA features a balanced lineup led by 6-foot-5 St. John’s commitment Brandon Sampson (15.9), 6-4 Rhode Island signee Christion Thompson (12.1) and 6-4 sophomore Josh Anderson (14.2). Despite MPA’s height and length on the perimeter, along with 6-9 junior center Yuryk Lazard, Starks said his team is a good match for the more defensive-minded Chargers who rely on either full-court pressure or trapping in the halfcourt.
Both of the LeDoux twins –—Jacob (17.6) and Kalob (16.5) — are capable of playing bigger than their listed 6-2 height, along with 6-3 freshman guard Greg Williams (13.0) and sophomore 6-3 guard Caleb Starks (9.3).
“I told the guys the couple of inches we give up, you have to make up in heart and get out there and play hard, box them out and do what we’re capable of doing,” Starks said. “Country Day had a great game plan, which slowed them down, but they were able to withstand that and hit some free throws down the stretch.”
Kalob LeDoux helped LCA break open a 28-24 halftime lead against Arcadia, scoring 17 of his game-high 30 points in the second half, with Jacob LeDoux adding 16 and Williams 13.
“This team understands what we want to do,” Starks said. “They don’t get too high or too low. When they’re quiet, they’re locked in to what we want to do. We celebrated (semifinal win) briefly in the locker room but we still have one more game ahead of us.”