Déjà vu with a courtside view. Fourth-seeded McKinley and No. 1 Scotlandville will bring that as they open play at the LHSAA boys basketball tournament Thursday.
A year removed from nearly pulling off the upset, McKinley (22-10) is determined to succeed. The two meet in a Division I semifinal at 11:30 a.m. that opens a six-game semifinal session at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“It’s going to be a interesting game,” McKinley coach Harold Boudreaux said. “Last year, the circumstances were like this, and we came so close. Both teams have different personnel, but each of us has a go-to player.
“Ja’Vonte Smart is not only a great player who can score, he also makes all the other players around him better. Tyrece Radford does the same things for us.”
While McKinley and Scotlandville square off in a rematch, two other local teams look to make history against other foes. At 1:15 p.m., third-seeded Catholic (20-8) takes on No. 2 St. Paul’s (26-5) in the other Division I semifinal. It is the first LHSAA tourney appearance for Catholic since 1995. St. Paul’s makes its tourney debut.
The last time Walker advanced to the LHSAA tourney it was a Class B school. The year was 1962. Now the Wildcats, a District 4-5A rival of Scotlandville, play in the state’s top classification. Fourth-seeded WHS (31-4) plays No. 1 Natchitoches Central (31-3) in a Class 5A semifinal at 8 p.m.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is a 32-minute season,” Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said. “We’ve got to go out and put our best foot forward, play solid defense and play with a lot of intensity. If you don’t bring it in this one, there won’t be another one.”
Scotlandville held off McKinley 47-44 in the semifinals last year and went on to beat Brother Martin to win the Division I title last March. The Hornets beat District 5-5A McKinley 57-37 when the teams met in the EBR tourney in December.
Smart, a 6-foot-4 LSU signee, averages 32.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and six assists per game for Scotlandville. Reece Beekman adds 13.5 points per game. Radford averages 26 points per game, Marcus Coleman (13.0) and Fred Carr (11.5) also lead McKinley.
Catholic has not played the Wolves, but coach Mark Cascio has seen them play. The St. Paul’s attack is led by 6-3 Parker Edwards (23.6), a player who scores inside and out. St. Paul’s also has 6-8 Chandler Owenby (10.6 points per game). Collin Holloway (6-4) leads Catholic with averages of 15 points and eight rebounds.
“A lot of our numbers, in terms of field-goal percentage and 3-point shooting, are close to theirs,” Cascio said. “We have to defend. They are very good off the dribble, and that is something we have to limit.”
Though being in the tournament is something new for Walker, facing Natchitoches Central is not. The Chiefs beat the Wildcats 52-50 in the regional round a year ago.
“I think that experience will help us,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. “Now they don’t have a Brandon Rachal, who is at LSU, but they have several players we did see. I think the teams are similar. We want to enjoy the experience, but we also have to handle the atmosphere and play our game.”
Pacing Walker are sophomore Jalen Cook who averages 18.1 points per game and 6-6 post player Jalen Perkins (12.0). Calvin Carpenter Jr. leads NCHS with a 17.2 scoring average.