The names of the schools and the faces of the players change. The site of the LHSAA boys basketball tournament also changes from time to time.
But the tradition of Baton Rouge teams playing for titles at the annual tourney never does, something Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample says is a point of pride.
“No group wants to be the one that doesn’t make it,” Sample said. “It means something to play in the LHSAA tournament for the schools here. You have traditions that go back decades like McKinley and Southern Lab. The chance to play for a title is special.”
Sample’s youthful Scotlandville team seeks its second straight Division I select title led by two returning starters, LSU signee Ja’Vonte Smart and sophomore Reece Beekman. It is the ninth straight tourney appearance for the Hornets, the longest ever in Class 5A/Division I and the top current streak among local teams.
But with 10 local teams headed to Lake Charles for the annual tourney that begins Monday at Burton Coliseum possibilities do abound. Scotlandville, Madison Prep (2A) and White Castle (1A) all won titles a year ago. Four other teams finished as select runners-up in 2017 — Division II University High, Division III Dunham, Division IV Southern Lab and Division V Jehovah-Jireh. Episcopal was a Division III semifinalist and makes its fourth straight tourney appearance.
All those schools are back. Jehovah-Jireh (27-13), the top seed, faces fourth-seeded Episcopal School of Acadiana (21-18) at 1:15 p.m. Monday to help open the tournament. Semifinals are played each day through Thursday with finals set for Friday and Saturday. Walker of Class 5A and Catholic High of Division I add to the mix for 2018.
Fourth-seeded Walker (31-4) makes its first tourney appearance since 1962 and plays No. 1 Natchitoches Central at (31-3) in a 5A semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Third-seeded Catholic (20-8) is back for the first time since 1995 and meets No. 2 St. Paul’s at 1:15 p.m. Thursday, after No. 1 Scotlandville (25-5) plays fourth-seeded McKinley (22-10) at 11:30 a.m.
“We play four sophomores, but this group saw the chance to do this,” Catholic coach Mark Cascio said. “Not all teams do that. We had more ups than downs and to get to the tournament is a huge for them and the school. I’ve heard from a lot of alumni who are very happy.”
Cascio coached Christian Life Academy to a 1A title in 2012. St. Paul’s coach Stephen Dale also is a former CLA coach and U-High assistant.
There is something new for Madison Prep (24-6). The Chargers move up to Class 3A after previously winning titles in Class B, 1A and 2A. Top-seeded MPA meets No. 4 Wossman (25-9) at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday.
White Castle (22-8) is another one of the storied programs. The No. 4 Bulldogs play top-seeded Tensas (34-1) at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday that is a rematch of last year’s 1A final. Much like Scotlandville, White Castle has a revamped team.
“We’ve got guys who didn’t play much at all last year,” White Castle coach Troy Green said. “They’ve heard about what their dads, uncles and brothers did when they played here. Every day they see the pictures of the teams that won it. They see this as their chance.”