It has been one wild ride for Madison Prep Academy boys basketball coach Jeffery Jones.
The longtime Glen Oaks High assistant coach stepped out of his comfort zone to accept a job at a new charter school that had no sports program three years ago.
“That first year, the toughest part was getting started,” Jones said. “We didn’t have a gym. People didn’t know about us or where we were located, so it was a building process.
“If you had told me that a couple of years later we’d be playing for a state championship, I wouldn’t have believed you. Now we have the perfect scenario. We get to play the team we lost to last year with the chance to win it all.”
Top-seeded Madison Prep (41-6) takes on No. 3 Simsboro (28-6) in a Class B boys final set for 8 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Louisiana-Monroe’s Fant-Ewing Coliseum. The tourney opens at 6 p.m. with second-seeded Fairview (43-1) taking on No. 1 Lacassine (39-1) in the Class B girls final. Fairview seeks a record-setting seventh straight title.
Fairview’s string of girls titles covers double the number of years that Madison Prep has been open. The Chargers are a growing power. The school, located just off Scenic Highway near Capitol High, moves to Class 1A in the fall and will offer varsity football for the first time.
Though the move to Madison Prep was considered high risk, it has offered high rewards for the 40-year-old Jones.
“I had just finished getting my master’s in administration and leadership and was looking to work in that area,” Jones said. “I get to do that. I’m the dean of students during the day and get to coach at night. It’s the best of both worlds.
“We couldn’t have done it without the support of the administration, the kids and their families. That’s the key, we’re like a family.”
That first year the Chargers made the boys basketball playoffs, but lost a lopsided game to traditional power Zwolle in the opening round. A year ago, MPA advanced to the semifinals thanks in part to the emergence of LSU signee Jarell Martin as one of the nation’s top players.
Like Martin, several Madison players were getting their first taste of high school basketball. But the season ended with a bitter taste, when the Chargers lost to Simsboro 72-70 in the semifinals.
“That loss was one of the best things that happened to us,” Jones said. “We weren’t poised enough, and we lost a game we could have won. I think we learned from that. These guys came in determined to be better this year.”
Jones put together a brutal schedule that included a national-level Thanksgiving tournament in Duncanville, Texas, that also featured two other finalists, Baton Rouge’s Scotlandville (5A) and Carroll-Monroe (3A). The Chargers also played Scotlandville, Glen Oaks, Christian Life, Northside and any other power they could schedule.
Jones said the Texas tournament and the other games have given the Chargers confidence. The 6-foot-9 Martin averages 26.3 points and 14.8 rebounds a game. Sophomore newcomer Brandon Sampson (6-4) is next in scoring 16.3, while senior Chad Williams (11.2) is also in double figures.
Daniel Ogunyemi (6-3) averages 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game to pace Simsboro. Point guard Duntavious Harris adds 10.5 points and 6.4 assists per game for SHS, located not far from Monroe.
“We’ve played quality opponents and played in hostile environments to get ready,” Jones said. “The question now is can we finish.”
FAIRVIEW VS. LACASSINE: The top two seeds square off. Another Fairview win would break a tie with Anacoco for most girls titles won in a row. It would also tie the overall state mark held by the Zwolle boys, which came in Classes B and 2A.
Natosha Morvant, who averages 19.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, leads Fairview, while Karli West adds 17.2 points per game. Abbie Melanson and Hayley Guidry lead Lacassine.