Lafayette Christian role players Andrew Epps, Michael Harden Jr. excel in their specialties _lowres

Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Lafayette Christian's Andrew Epps and McKinley's Kieon Brown goes for the rebound in the Madison Prep Classic on Thursday, December 18.

Lafayette Christian Academy forward Andrew Epps tries to anticipate the landing point of an opponent’s missed shot. The 6-foot-5 senior not only wants to position himself for the rebound, but more importantly, trigger a fast break.

“That’s part of our offense,” Epps said. “I want to get the ball out as fast as I can so we can get down and run transition and get easy buckets.”

Uncontested baskets are often the result of LCA point guard Michael Harden Jr.’s menacing style of defense against opposing point guards trying to defeat the Knights’ full-court pressure.

If teams are successful in crossing midcourt and attempt to establish a half-court offense, Harden is often at his disruptive best, applying constant on-ball pressure that leads to one of two things: frustration for the offense or turnovers.

“I try to get the team going on defense,” Harden said. “The more pressure I put on the guards and picking them up (full court), it disrupts their offense and fast break chances.”

There are a myriad of reasons No. 3 LCA (30-3) finds itself playing for the school’s first Class 1A state championship against No. 1 Madison Prep Academy (34-1) Saturday at 2 p.m. at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

Most observers believe the Knights are a tremendously talented team led by twins Jacob and Kalob LeDoux — who’ve combined to score 33 points per game. Freshman Greg Williams averages 13.

On the surface, that’s a good place to start, but this year’s LCA team is also a collection of selfless players such as Epps and Harden that complement the aforementioned trio and carry out their individual roles specific to the team’s needs.

“Michael’s first responsibility’s on the defensive side of the ball,” LCA coach Byron Starks said. “After that he makes sure to run the offense; makes sure he gets people in the place they’re supposed to be. Also, he scores when there’s an opportunity.

“Andrew’s one of our longest guys,” Starks said. “During the last part of district and in the playoffs, he’s come out and gotten some key rebounds and altered shots. He also scored some big baskets. Those are the little things he does for us. Sometimes he starts, but he’s a big part of where we are today.”

Standing 6-foot-5, Epps, one of two seniors on the team, is the tallest player along with junior Quinton White and provides LCA with a rebounding presence and capable shot blocker. He will be matched Saturday against MPA’s 6-9 junior Yuryk Lazard and 6-6 freshman Josh LeBlanc.

“We’re going to need an inside game, and that’s the thing that’s going to separate us from Madison Prep,” Epps said. “For us to win, I just have to play my role and be unselfish. It’s not that hard if I want to win.”

Epps averages 5.9 points and ranks third on the team with 4.0 rebounds.

“I like rebounding the most,” Epps said. “I also defend and take charges. I try to play that role to the best of my ability.”

Like most standout point guards Harden’s mindset is centered on facilitating LCA’s high-scoring offense. He fits the mold of a pass-first player who concentrates a great deal of his energy on the defense, which in turn fuels the Knights’ offense.

Harden ranks fourth, along with Epps, with a 5.9 scoring average and nearly four steals and two assists an outing.

“Last year we had a boat load of talent but not as much chemistry,” Harden said. “We know our roles and we’re trying to make the best of it and it’s worked out. Hopefully it will work for us Saturday.”