LAKE CHARLES — John Curtis coach Mike Krajcer has been here before. It was back in 2012 in Ruston.
That was the year Curtis upset heavily favored Riverside Academy in the Class 2A state championship game to give the Patriots their only boys basketball state title.
Fast forward to 2015, where the scene is now Lake Charles and the Patriots are competing for a 3A title.
In order to win title No. 2, Curtis (25-7) will once again have to wear the giant underdog hat.
Curtis, the No. 3 seed, will take on top-seed heavyweight University High (32-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Burton Coliseum for the Class 3A state championship.
“They are the kings of the mountain and we’re just ‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’ ” Krajcer said. “We have to go and try to chop down that beanstalk and win. Hopefully we can do that.”
U-High is going for its second straight title with a team filled with future Division I players. Krajcer joked about what it would take to knock off the star-studded Cubs.
“Prayer, lots o f prayer,” he said, before offering a more serious response.
“We have to play our game and we have to be disciplined,” Krajcer said. “That’s what it’s going to take. They are big and athletic. They are just a well-rounded basketball team.”
Krajcer compares U-High to that Riverside team, led by (current Baylor star) Ricardo Gathers, that his team was able to upset three years ago.
“This team is as talented as those past Riverside teams, including the one they have now,” Krajcer said. “They are very good. I am going to go in with the same mentality I had when we played Ricardo and that group. They were extremely good and we went in and we had a (Malik) Morgan kid then who played real well for us. Richard Durant was just a freshman for us then and he played huge. Hopefully, we can overcome that mountain.”
It would help Curtis to get another big game from Durant, now a senior, and sophomore Kai Morgan (Malik’s younger brother). The two guards combined for 46 points (25 from Durant, 21 from Morgan) in the hard-fought 72-69 semifinal victory over Rayville. They combined for nine 3-pointers.
“The two guards certainly give you a lot to contend with,” U-High coach Joe Spencer said. “They shoot the ball well. The other guys have settled into their roles. And they have other guards who can score and who also are very quick.”
Jordan Holmes, Shawn Anderson and Matt Nelson are the other starters for the Patriots, but Curtis got valuable minutes off the bench in the semifinals from Devon Benn (seven points), Dontae Jones, Matt Nelson and Garrett Wallow.
They have helped Curtis reel off 10 straight victories coming into Saturday’s game.
“I’m not surprised Curtis is here,” Spencer said. “A lot of times what it comes down to is which teams are playing the best at the end of the year. Curtis has been playing very well for the last month of the season.”
U-High boasts four starters 6-foot-5 or taller and will have a size advantage, but Spencer said the Patriots can make up for that in other ways.
“They have some size, but their quickness is a real concern,” Spencer said. “We have to be able to rebound effectively. They shoot the 3 well enough. If you give them second and third chances, you’re making it tougher on yourself.”
Krajcer, seeking his second title as a coach, is just hoping this title game will turn out like his last one.
“All I can say is we will give it the best effort we possibly can” he said.