Istrouma and Christian Life are undefeated in their respective boys basketball districts as each school faces its toughest challenger Tuesday night.
Istrouma (20-6, 10-0 in District 6-4A) plays at Tara (21-7, 8-1), while defending state champion Christian Life (21-5, 7-0 in District 7-1A) travels to Southern Lab (12-15, 6-1).
Istrouma edged Tara 58-56, and Class A No. 1 CLA used three Johnathan Stove free throws in the closing seconds to nip Southern Lab 53-52 in the first meetings.
All four teams are on winning streaks. Istrouma a winning streak of nine games, followed by CLA (seven), Tara (six) and Southern Lab (four). Istrouma has a win over Scotlandville on its résumé.
ISTROUMA AT TARA: Istrouma has good size in 6-foot-8 senior Carvis Kaigler (10 ppg, 10 rpg) and 6-5 junior Marquise Kaigler (15 ppg, 12 rpg). Devin Bethany (16 ppg), Tevin Walker (15 ppg) and point guard Derrick Thomas (8 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg) are the other starters.
“I expect a playoff atmosphere,” Istrouma coach Aaron Pearson said. “We’ve been playing good lately. Tara is a tough place to play.
“Tara shoots the ball well. Tara has great guards and is a scrappy team. We’ve got to limit our turnovers and work the ball inside. On defense we’ve got to guard the 3-point line and rebound.”
“The Kaigler brothers do a good job on both ends of the court,” Pearson said. “Marquise has a good midrange jumper and both of them block a lot of shots for us. Our half-court defense is one of the strengths of the team.”
Josh Plain, Shaquille Reed and Lionel Russell are among the offensive leaders for Tara.
Walker hit two late free throws as Istrouma rallied for victory in the first meeting. Both teams led by 10 points in a back-and-forth contest.
CHRISTIAN LIFE AT SOUTHERN LAB: Christian Life has won three of the last four meetings between the school dating to last season.
Southern Lab, which will celebrate senior night, got off to a slow start this season as three current starters participated in the football playoffs. The Kittens have been on a scoring tear in their last three district games against Kentwood, Hannan and Mt. Hermon. They averaged over 91 ppg in that span with victory margins of 47 ppg.
Christian Life has a recent comeback victory over Madison Prep.
The Crusaders are led by 6-4 junior Stove (21 ppg), 6-3 junior R.J. Hertzog (10 ppg) and Malik Harrison (9 ppg). Khalid Smith and Tremel Johnson are the other starters.
Southern Lab starters include 5-9 senior Trent Flowers (17 ppg), 6-3 senior Marquise Ricard (15 ppg), 6-2 senior Deonte Shorts (12 ppg), 6-5 junior Ray White (9 ppg, 8 rpg) and 5-10 senior Sam Forrest (8 ppg).
“All five Lab starters can score and present matchup problems,” Christian Life coach Mark Cascio said. “Lab is as talented as anybody in the state in Class 1A. We’ll have to play good team defense.
“We expect a playoff atmosphere. We’ll have to play hard, protect the ball and rebound. It should be fun to watch.”
“We’re doing a lot of things better as a team than we were in our first meeting against CLA,” Southern Lab coach Lonnie Machen said. “We’re shooting well and attacking the rim. We’ve really worked hard on defense.
“Down the stretch in the first game we had a chance to put the game away, and we didn’t. We’ll need to take care of the ball and hit our free throws this time.”
Machen said Christian Life is a good fundamental team.
“They get good looks on offense, play good defense and execute well,” Machen said. “Stove is a very efficient player. The rest of their players play off of him. You have to really get on them and stay on them.
“I think it’s going to be a very close game that may come down to one or two plays. We’re glad it’s at our place. It’s going to be loud and intense.”