In some ways, the territory is familiar for Plaquemine High boys basketball coach Kirby Loupe. Before he became the Green Devils coach, Loupe coached rival Port Allen, leading the Pelicans to one Top 28 tournament appearance.
At the time, PAHS and Plaquemine were in the same Class 3A district. Taking over at PHS has also proven to be a new ballgame for Loupe, and a prime example of those differences will be displayed Tuesday night.
Plaquemine (14-6, 1-1) hosts Istrouma (12-6, 3-0) in a pivotal District 6-4A game set for about 7:30 p.m. at PHS.
“They’re going to be a challenge, for sure,” Loupe said. “Not only are they athletic, but they have size and play well together.
“Their point guard, (Devin) Bethley, is one of the best guards in the area, if not the whole state.
“We have to play solid defense and rebound. They’re not the kind of team you want to give extra shots to.”
Another shot at being a head coach was just what Loupe wanted. He spent last year teaching and did some coaching in West Baton Rouge Parish School System after a stint at Zachary High.
The situation is a form of déjà vu. Beckari Beckwith was brought in to take the Zachary program in a different direction following Loupe’s tenure.
At Plaquemine, Loupe follows former rival Denny Wright, now head coach at Grand Isle, under similar circumstances.
There were strategic differences, too. Wright’s PHS teams focused on defense and made scoring a premium. Loupe prefers more of an up-tempo style. Losing one of the Green Devils’ top players, Demetrius Franklin, to injury didn’t help. The 6-foot-1 Franklin suffered a broken leg in a preseason scrimmage.
“Our players have all been great,” Loupe said. “They’ve done whatever I’ve asked them to do. We’ve learned about each other and about the things I like to do, and they’ve handled it well.”
Loupe said his players and the new system started to mesh during an early December win over Morgan City. The Green Devils also posted quality wins over Hammond and Thibodaux to win their own holiday classic.
After losing to the other 6-4A favorite, Tara, before the holidays, the Green Devils appear to be back on track and are primed for their next big league test.
PHS is led by 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior Davon Godchaux, an all-state football player considered to be one of the top defensive line prospects.
Godchaux is averaging 15 points and 14 rebounds and scored 21 in Friday’s 6-4A win over Broadmoor.
“What a kid and what a leader,” Loupe said. “Obviously, he takes up a lot of space around the basket, and he knows the game.
“We’ve got some young guys, and they look up to him.”
Sophomore Devante Marshall (6-4) adds 13 points a game, while freshman Clifton Young (6-2) contributes nine points a game.
Sophomores Louis Conerly (5-10) and Charleston Spears (6-0) also play key roles, along with senior Justin Randall (5-11).
Istrouma rebounded from back-to-back losses at the Coca-Cola/Bob Pettit/East Baton Rouge Parish Tournament to beat Lutcher on Friday in 6-4A. The Indians are led by 5-10 Bethley, who averages 18 points per game.
Brothers Marquise (6-5) and Carvis Kaigler (6-7) are other leaders for the Indians, along with 6-1 Tevin Walker (15 points a game). Marquise Kaigler is averaging 16 points a game, while Carvis Kaigler adds 11 points and 10 rebounds a game.
This is also a pivotal week for Istrouma and its first-year coach Aaron Pearson. The Indians face Tara on Friday.
“After the parish tournament, we had to get back to the basics and really stressed defense and rebounding,” Pearson said.
“This one is big for both teams.”