Second-year Comeaux High School boys basketball coach Jeremy Whittington doesn’t want anything to come between him and his team’s biggest game to date.
Not even a case of the flu.
“I’ve got to be there,” Whittington said. “The kids are pumped about this game. This is a huge team coming into to play us. I know the guys are worried about me a little bit, but I told them it would take a lot for me not to be there.”
Whittington, who wore a mask but kept his distance from the team during Monday’s practice, plans to be on his team’s bench Tuesday when Comeaux (5-2) hosts reigning Class 5A state champion Natchitoches Central (9-2) at 6:30 p.m.
“It will have to be a tremendous team effort,” Whittington said. “We’ve talked about it and have had a week to prepare. I thought we’ve had our best four to five practices we could have in a week’s time for us to grow as a team. Our kids are looking forward to the game.
“It doesn’t get any better in 5A than Natchitoches Central,” Whittington said. “They’re big and very athletic. We’re going to have to play a great game against a great opponent. I believe our kids have bought into what we need to do. It’s just a matter of carrying it out.”
Comeaux got an early look at Natchitoches Central a year ago before the Chiefs went on to win the school’s first state title, dethroning two-time champion Scotlandville 60-53.
With a senior-laden team the Spartans lost a five-point road contest to the Chiefs last season.
“They had a great team last year and have another great team this year,” Whittington said. “I think they may even be better this year.”
Natchitoches Central graduated starting point guard Andre Jackson from last year’s state-title team but returned the nucleus of that 31-3 club intact.
The Chiefs, whose only losses are to Lancaster, Texas (55-46) and Kimball, Texas (55-48), are led 6-foot-4 junior forward Austin Guy and 6-9 junior center Cameron Lard.
Guy earned second team All-State honors a year ago, while Lard was named the Class 5A tournament MVP after delivering 22 points in the title game.
“This will be the best opponent we’ve played, and may be the best we play all year even though we’ve got some good teams in our district,” said Whittington, whose team faces Class 4A power Peabody in Barbe’s Tournament on Thursday.
)“They have everything. We’re looking forward to it. To have them at our place is great for our school and our fans.”
Comeaux brings in a four-game win streak and relies on 6-4 senior leading scorer Hunter Register (18 points).
The Spartans will also start seniors Joseph Prejean, a 6-2 center, shooting guard Jaleel Moore and try and counter the larger Chiefs with 6-6 sophomore Jordan Foster, 6-3 sophomore Michael Smith, 6-5 freshman Devaughn Thomas and 6-3 freshman Isaac Moore.
“We’re hoping it ends up being a great game and to gauge where we’re at,” Whittington said. “We don’t know right now even though we’ve lost a couple of games. We haven’t played the 5A talent that we’re going to play even in district yet. We’ll see where we’re at, that’s for sure.”