LAKE CHARLES — You could see the sense of pride and accomplishment on Carlos Sample’s face.
His Scotlandville High team had just displayed an incredible amount of grit and determination. The Hornets fought defending champion Natchitoches Central tooth-and-nail, coming from behind to claim a 42-34 victory in the Class 5A title game.
When asked if it was the biggest victory of his career, Sample said yes in a typically low-key matter.
The Friday night victory at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 tournament said as much about the 45-year-old Sample as it did about his team.
Sample admitted the role of the favorite doesn’t fit him. Like the Hornets, he thrived in the underdog role, doing a masterful job with motivation and strategy.
The win also secures a special place in Louisiana’s high school basketball history for Sample and Scotlandville. There are still four years left in this decade, but the Hornets can stake their claim to the title “Program of the Decade.” Sample is the top coach.
Yes, I know Riverside Academy has plenty of titles and Rebels coach Timmy Byrd has a ton of victories.
I know the Hornets suffered some losses.
But the numbers speak for themselves. No other team has advanced to six straight Class 5A title games in the 5A era. Don’t dismiss me as a shameless homer just yet.
Consider these points:
When you think of long streaks of finals appearances, the legacy of schools in smaller classifications like Southern Lab, Zwolle and now defunct Reserve Christian come to mind.
Scotlandville’s streak is the longest for a team in Classes 3A and above in the Top 28 era. Sure, Scotlandville has only won three of its six title-game appearances. But the streak is three of the past four.
In the top classification, which exudes parity, Sample and Scotlandville have an incredible 202-23 record since starting the string of Top 28 title-game berths in 2010.
Simply the best in BR? You have to consider it.
“I never thought about anything like this,” Sample said. “I was fortunate enough to get to a great academic school when my high school coach (SHS Principal Howard Davis) hired me. He wanted a solid program. So I put my head down and started working.”
Redemptorist had its golden era that I didn’t witness in multiple classes. Southern Lab had its string of 11 titles in 13 years in 1A that I did see.
There were whispers about Scotlandville all year. It started when the Hornets lost to McKinley in the EBR tourney back in December. Could they do it? Sure, this freshman Ja’Vonte Smart is good and so are the others, but can they get it together?
There were whispers when the playoffs began. Was Scotlandville a No. 3 seed that was ripe for an upset? Many people thought so.
The Hornets did benefit from the misfortune of others. C.E. Byrd failed to make free throws in the fourth quarter. Natchitoches Central missed shots from the field and the free-throw line.
Championship basketball is all about who’s playing their best at the end of the year. Scotlandville ended its season with a 20-game winning streak. Over the past six years no one has done it better than the Hornets in 5A, even though the names have changed.
It started with J.J. Thomas and Cleveland Thomas and continued through Damian Jones and Tre’lun Banks. Now there’s Smart, basketball savvy behind his years at age 15, along with LaMarcus Lee, Jordan Adebutu and Garrick Green.
Sample, who has a career record of 427-170, is the constant. It’s that simple.
The 8,002 fans that attended Friday’s three-game session was the best one-session crowd in the two-year history of the tournament in Lake Charles.
A crowd of 6,676 attended the four-game session Saturday, giving the tournament a total of 29,848 over five days.
Catholic-Pointe Coupee is accepting applications for a football coach. March 27 is the deadline to apply.
Applicants should send a résumé, references and a salary range to Principal Colleen Caillet at email@example.com.