Baker coach James Holmes, center, celebrates with his players, from left, Louis Blake, left, and Garon Williams, right during a timeout against McKinley in the East Baton Rouge Boys Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at Tara High School in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

Baker basketball coach James Holmes had one piece of advice to fans wanting to attend Friday’s District 6-3A showdown against University High.

“I think people need to get there early,” Holmes said of the 7:30 p.m. game at Baker Middle School.

Holmes has transformed Baker from a six-win team the year before his arrival into a team with intentions of challenging for the District 6-3A championship.

The Buffaloes (19-4) and Cubs (17-2) are part of a three-way tie for the league lead with 4-1 records, along with West Feliciana.

“These kids are excited,” Holmes said. “You walk the halls at school and everyone’s excited.”

The Baker-University matchup highlights a busy schedule among local/area teams that are in the heart of their  district schedules.

In a matchup of two of the state’s top Class C teams, No. 1 Jehovah-Jireh (22-6) hosts No. 5 Family Christian Academy (23-8) in a key District 8-C game at 7 p.m. Friday.

“We have been playing well, but obviously they’re a good team that does a lot of good stuff,” FCA coach Steve Rachal said. “We’ll see if what we’ve done and prepared for gets us ready.”

The spotlight will also be on the District 4-5A girls race when Denham Springs (19-4) travels to Zachary (15-9) in a battle of 3-0 teams at 6:30 p.m.

UHIGH-BAKER: The Buffaloes have already surpassed last year’s 12-win total and three victories in league play.

With the nucleus of that team returning, Baker was bolstered by the transfers of 6-foot-6 Dexter Dennis and 6-7 Xavier Johnson of Southern Lab, coupled with senior guard Louis Blake of Northeast.

Baker reeled off 14 wins in its first 16 games and advanced to the semifinals of the East Baton Rouge Parish Tournament.

U-High, the three-time defending Class 3A state champion, had its 33-game district win streak snapped at home Tuesday, 81-77, by Donaldsonville.

Dennis’ averages of 22 points and 12 rebounds per game leads an 11-player rotation, featuring seven seniors. Blake and reserve Jerry Johnson both average nine points.

“It’s no secret the addition of those kids who all live in Baker have helped,” Holmes said. “That’s good to go with any group of kids you’ve got returning.”

FAMILY CHRISTIAN-JEHOVAH-JIREH: The Flames are riding the crest of a season-high 10-game win streak, a stretch that includes four wins over teams from Classes 3A-4A.

However, Rachal realizes the sizable challenge his team faces in Jehovah-Jireh, which started 16-1 and has lost this month to Class 5A teams Catholic High and Scotlandville.

The Flames are led in scoring by Cameron Crump (17 points), Hosea Pate (15), Jaylen Roy (10) and Justin Doyley (9).

DENHAM SPRINGS-ZACHARY: For the second straight year, the two teams are undefeated in league play nearing the end of the first round of district action.

The biggest difference this time around for Zachary is first-year coach Tami McClure, who after a successful stint at St. Michael the Archangel, has navigated the Broncos through a challenging nondistrict schedule and to a share of the 4-5A lead.

“The improvement we are seeing is from the tough nondistrict games we played,” McClure said. “We got to see where we stood against top teams in Louisiana, and it helped prepare us for this strong district we are in.”

Zachary, which has a No. 13 unofficial nonselect power rating from the LHSAA, has won its past five games, while Denham Springs, No. 5, has won seven straight games.

The Broncos are led by Rayah Haynes’ 14.6 points and Bryana Langford’s 9.8 points.


Episcopal's boys will face Runnels at Woodlawn High at approximately 7:30 p.m.