Best-of-three: Scotlandville, Natchitoches Central play again for Class 5A title after beating each other the past two seasons _lowres

Advocate photo by Buddy Delahoussaye-- Scotlandville's Garrick Green looks for an opening against a Ouachita Parish defender in a Class 5A semifinal at the Boys Top 28 tournament semifinal Tuesday at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

Nobody has done it quite like Scotlandville High in Class 5A boys basketball.

The Hornets are the first 5A team to appear in seven straight title games. They’ve won three of the past four 5A state titles, including one last year.

Can the second-seeded Hornets do it one more time with defense and just enough free-wheeling offense?

“This means everything,” Scotlandville guard Jordan Adebutu said. “I know I’m blessed to have my last high school game also be a state championship game.

“It is a big stage, and we know there are things we’ve got to do like carry out assignments and make sure it’s the best total team effort. We never expect it to be easy.”

One reason Adebutu and the Hornets know it won’t be easy is this: They’ll be facing top-seeded Natchitoches Central (32-3) for the third straight year at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 tournament. NCHS won the title in 2014, which makes the 8 p.m. Friday final at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles all the more intriguing.

“It is the rubber match,” Natchitoches Central coach Micah Coleman said. “And we’re looking forward to it. I consider Scotlandville to be one of the great programs in the state of Louisiana.

“They play extremely hard and Carlos’ (Sample, Scotlandville coach) teams always play such great defense. I think their players have gotten better individually. Some of them are in new roles. You can depend on them playing great defense and making big plays.”

The teams are familiar with each other. It’s also fair to say they’re more alike than different. Defense is the calling card for both. Natchitoches Central limited East Ascension to 49 points in the semifinals. Ouachita Parish made 39.8 percent of its shots against Scotlandville.

Natchitoches Central had a height advantage the past two seasons with 6-foot-9 Cameron Lard protecting the rim.

Lard transferred to Landry-Walker in New Orleans and never gained eligibility. The Chiefs kept rolling, and so did the Hornets.

“This is the third year in a row, and we have the utmost respect for Micah and Natchitoches Central,” Sample said. “Both teams are different in some ways.

“People look at Ja’Vonte (Smart, sophomore guard) first, but we have some silent assassins. That showed in the semifinals when he (Smart) got in foul trouble. For us, it’s about team first.”

Each team has a big-time playmaker. Scotlandville’s 6-4 Smart is one of the nation’s top recruits for 2018 and averages 22.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game. NCHS’ Brandon Rachal (6-6) averages 15 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Rachal is a top 2017 prospect.

Point guard Brian White averages 17 points and six assists for the Chiefs, while 6-4 Austin Guy averages 14.5. Adebutu is at 17.4 points per game and 6-6 post player Garrick Green averages 15.9.

Another title-game win would put Scotlandville in a tie with St. Augustine for the most 5A titles with four. The Hornets and Brother Martin each have won three 5A titles.

The coaches agree on this: You can’t get a championship ring without doing the right things.

“It’ll come down to who can execute their game plan better,” Sample said. “Who can make the big shots? Who can impose their will? I believe in my guys, and Micah believes in his. It’ll be a battle.”