Three of the top four teams remaining in the Class 4A boys basketball bracket hail from the New Orleans area.
Two of those teams will go head-to-head when the top seed in Class 4A takes on the team few expected to be there.
Salmen (25-4) will play No. 12 McDonogh 35 at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
It will be a battle between the traditional powerhouse Spartans, who are making their seventh appearance in the Top 28 and the Roneagles, who are making the school’s first trip to the state semifinals.
Still celebrating a 39-34 upset win over No. 4 Plaquemine in the quarterfinals, McDonogh 35 coach Kevin Sanders said he has preached a simple message.
“We are writing our own narrative as we speak,” he said. “I have told my team the state semifinals are simply another chapter in it. We are making history as we speak. Why not do it yourself instead of having someone else write it? Why not us?
“There is no doubt we are playing with nothing to lose. Nobody expected us to be here. We came from a tough district and hung around and competed. Now we are getting to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We are peaking at the right time, and we like our chances to win Thursday night.”
Winners of 11 straight heading into the state semifinals, the Spartans will be looking for their first state championship since the 2008-09 season. Longtime Salmen coach Jay Carlin said his squad will not take the Roneagles lightly.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “The approach we have taken throughout the playoffs is we look at the team in front of the seed, not the seed of the team. All you have to do is look at the bracket. McDonogh 35 is a 12 seed, Landry-Walker is a No. 6 seed and St. Michael’s is a No. 10 seed. They are all good teams, and they beat good teams to get to the Top 28.”
Two games removed from a thrilling double-overtime win over Neville, Salmen had no problems with No. 9 Ellender in a 58-38 quarterfinal win.
“We are playing with a tremendous amount of confidence and are coming off of three wins over three quality opponents,” Carlin said. “Our kids are excited about the opportunity before them and have put themselves in a position to play for a state championship.
“We played a tough schedule against some of the best teams in the state to prepare us for the moments we are set to embrace this week.
“Now it’s our chance to take advantage of them.”
Having held their three playoff foes to 41 points per game, Sanders said the defense must once again be there Thursday night against a high-scoring, up-tempo Salmen squad.
“We are going to have to be fundamentally sound on both ends of the court,” he said. “We are going to have to meet Salmen’s intensity on the court and get them out of their game. (The Spartans) play so well together. It is going to be a big challenge for us.”