With each step Lafayette Christian Academy’s program has taken the past two seasons, expectations have also increased.
After taking over and leading the Knights to the regional round of the Class B state playoffs, coach Byron Starks and his club got their first taste of the Top 28 tournament — falling to Madison Prep 61-50 in last season’s Class 1A state semifinals.
That set the stage for this season that’s carried Lafayette Christian from an undefeated District 7-1A championship back to another Top 28 appearance where the third-seeded Knights (29-3) meet No. 2 Arcadia (28-3) in Wednesday’s 2:45 p.m. Class 1A state semifinal at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
The LCA-Arcadia winner would face either No. 1 Madison Prep or No. 4 Country Day in the Class 1A championship game at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“That experience we had from last season definitely helps,” Starks said. “We’ve had kids that have worked hard over the summer to get to where we are. Their focus and intent is to compete for that state championship and not only compete but go win it.”
Starks said his current team, which integrated four new starters from a year ago, is another team capable of shooting from the perimeter but in some regards is better athletically.
It’s hard to argue with the results of an LCA team riding an 18-game win streak since a 55-39 loss to Class 5A St. Augustine in the final of the St. Thomas More-Sunkist Shootout.
The Knights also have losses to defending Class 5A state champion and current top-seeded semifinalist Natchitoches Central (62-57) and Class 4A playoff team Northside (51-50).
“I think we’re more athletic than last year’s team,” Starks said. “We have some guys who can shoot with some athleticism that’s helped out. We’ve had some guys step up like (freshman) Greg Williams and Caleb Starks (one of his two sons on the team). We’re almost a mirror of last year but a little more athletic.”
Arcadia’s back in the Top 28 for the third straight year, falling to Country Day the past two years — 53-46 in last year’s semifinal and 60-54 in the 2013 championship game.
The Hornets have won their past 13 games and only have losses to Natchitoches Central (69-67), West Jefferson (66-64) and Country Day (41-39) this season.
“They lost a point guard toward the end of district play, but they’re still a strong opponent,” Starks said. “They’ve competed well and made another playoff run. They have a really good shooter in Eric Brown Jr., who has NBA range, and we definitely have to take note of him. They’ll have the experience of being there the last couple of years. They’re going to be a tough opponent for us.”
The 6-foot-3 Ledoux twins — Jacob and Kalob — lead Lafayette Christian in scoring at 18 and 17.3 points. Williams contributes 13, Caleb Starks 10 and junior point guard Michael Harden Jr. nine.
Starks is hoping there’s a carry-over effect from the Knights last outing in which they demolished White Castle 82-45 in the quarterfinal round.
“As a coach you always think you can do something better, but on that night we were playing scary good,” Starks said. “I hope it will be the same way when we go in there on Wednesday.
The kids knew where they wanted to get. They had the focus. I told them if they do that, share the ball and play together, then they can compete with just about any team in any class.”