It’s the game that many high school basketball fans have anticipated all season.
Well, actually, it’s the matchup people have wanted to see, period.
No. 1 vs. No. 2.
Champion vs. champion.
Small school powerhouse vs. small school powerhouse.
Riverside and Madison Prep will meet for the first time on the basketball court Saturday at 4 p.m. in Lake Charles’ Burton Coliseum in the Class 2A state championship game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA Boys Top 28 Tournament.
Riverside (28-5), the No. 2 seed, is trying win its fourth consecutive state championship and sixth title in seven years.
Top-seed Madison Prep (30-4), which won a Class 1A championship last season and a Class B title in 2013 before moving up in classification this year, is looking for another trophy as well.
Riverside coach Timmy Byrd, who has guided the Rebels to the championship game in all of his seven seasons, isn’t surprised by what teams made it to the title game.
“We kind of had it penciled in that if we made it to the end that we would see them in the semis or the finals,” Byrd said “I guess it’s appropriate that the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are playing.”
Both teams have won every playoff game by double digits, although Madison Prep’s 10-point win in the semifinals against North Caddo needed two overtimes to be decided.
The Rebels’ winning streak is now at 13, while the Chargers have won 16 in a row.
“They are deep,” Byrd said about the Chargers. “Naturally you have to be impressed with No. 4 (junior guard Josh Anderson) and No. 23 (sophomore forward Josh LeBlanc) and how athletic and long they are. They play a lot of players and do a lot of different things. They are a real talented team.”
Riverside will counter with the trio of Malik Crowfield, Herb McGee and sophomore Jared Butler. Crowfield will play at VCU next season and McGee will play at South Alabama.
“They are winners,” said Madison Prep coach Jeff Jones about Riverside. “They are going to battle. Malik Crowfield, Jared Butler and Herb McGee are probably the best 1-2-3 guard combo in any class in the state. We know it will be a little different game than the game (vs. North Caddo). I expect it to be a war. They are going to make plays. We are going to make plays. They are going to play hard, we are going to play hard.”
It will be the final game for Crowfield and McGee, looking to cap their careers with one last title. They’ve played in the championship game every year, with their only loss coming when they were eighth- graders.
But Byrd knows adding another title won’t be easy.
“They are as good as anybody we’ve played,” Byrd said. “We are two different teams. They do a great job of rebounding and playing above the rim. We don’t really play above the rim. It’s one team (that’s) all guards against them with a lot of bigs and athletic wings. It’ll be interesting to see which style will come out on top.”
In addition to its championship game experience, Byrd also likes how battle-tested his team has been this season. Twelve of the Rebels’ games this season have come against teams who made it to the Top 28.
Riverside is 8-4 in those games.
“Our guys have been through a lot of battles, a lot of wars,” Byrd said. “So they don’t get intimidated by anybody. We’ve just got to do what we do.”