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Dunham's Jordan Wright attempts a shot against Madison Prep's Josh LeBlanc on Tuesday, January 10, 2017, at Madison Prep in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

Less than two weeks ago, a colleague and a few former coaches posed the same question to me. It is one I always I answer carefully, especially this time of year.

“Who are your good basketball teams in Baton Rouge,” they asked.

Trying to be diplomatic, I told them, “Several ... check back with me in a couple of weeks.”

Why wait? Because the best teams always rise to the top, but there are always surprises that impact the playoffs. This week is a crucial part of the process.

Here a small part of what we have learned:

The supporting cast is different, but Scotlandville with LSU signee Ja’Vonte Smart is primed for another title run. Walker High has proven itself to be another elite team from District 4-5A.

District 5-5A is up for grabs. East Ascension lost to Catholic and McKinley beat St. Amant on Friday, so you have a group of teams with one-loss. Two of those teams, EAHS and McKinley, play Tuesday night.

Madison Prep, the heavy favorite in 6-3A, welcomes back Georgetown signee Josh Leblanc for its game Tuesday with Baker at Baker Middle School.

Other key matchups in the districts loom in the days ahead. The sense of urgency is greater for girls teams as they complete the final days of their regular season.

McKinley and East Ascension is also a big girls game Tuesday. The Panthers beat EAHS at home last month and will look to sweep their 5-5A rivals.

Zachary passed a key 4-5A test with its win over Walker on Friday. The Broncos face traditional power Denham Springs and Scotlandville this week.

Smith nets 1,000th win

Peabody coach Charles Smith claimed his 1,000th career win Friday night. The Warhorses of Alexandria beat Caldwell 102-36, making Smith the fourth Louisiana coach to reach 1,000 wins.

The late Joel Hawkins of Southern Lab-Lake Providence at 1,071, the late Leslie Gaudet of Pine Prairie at 1,026 and former Rosepine coach Danny Fletcher, who retired last spring with 1,007 wins, are the others.

Smith and St. Thomas More coach Danny Broussard (960 wins) are moving up the all-time wins list compiled by the National Federation of High Schools. Holden’s Kenny Almond also appears on the NFHS list. Almond got his 900th win in December and now has 905 wins.

Hoops and more

Smart made nine 3-pointers while scoring 62 points in a win over Belaire on Friday. He made 50 percent of his field goal attempts and all seven of his free throws.

• St. Amant boys basketball player Jimmie Pittman is being monitored through concussion protocol after a head injury suffered Friday at McKinley. Pittman was taken to the hospital from the game and had a follow-up doctor visit Monday. SAHS coach Travis Uzee said Pittman will return to action when he passes concussion protocol tests.

• McKinley girls soccer player Skylar Randall is set to sign with Southern at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the school. She is the daughter of former SU quarterback Eric Randall, now the head football coach at Baker.

Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter, @FambroughAdv.