Riverside, the two-time defending state champion, was the No. 1 seed in Class 2A when the LHSAA announced its boys basketball playoff pairings on Monday.
OK, so the Rebels being the top seed in 2A wasn’t really a surprise considering they have yet to lose to an in-state team this season.
What would be a surprise is if the heavily-favored Rebels somehow don’t win their third straight championship and fourth in the last five years.
“That’s the flip side of our situation,” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said. “We just have to do as good a job as coaches as we can to make sure that these guys don’t overlook anybody. You don’t want to make history on the wrong side.”
Riverside opens against No. 32 seed Springfield.
The Rebels have been basically unstoppable this season, piling up a 25-6 record. They have posted wins over the No. 1 seeded teams in 5A (Natchitoches Central), 4A (Salmen), and 3A (University High). They haven’t lost a game to a Louisiana school since late 2013, when they fell to Scotlandville.
“We are just focusing on not letting our guards down and not stop working,” Byrd said. “What you do when you do that is ruin a great season.”
Byrd is going for his 12th state title in 14 years. He won seven at Reserve Christian before winning four of the past five seasons at Riverside.
He is hoping the one he didn’t win, a loss to John Curtis in the 2012 title game, will help motivate this year’s team.
“These guys saw when they were eighth-graders and freshmen when we overwhelming favorites and lost to Curtis what can happen,” Byrd said. “They realize that if you shoot 24 from the field and 25 percent from the free-throw line, you can get beat. Hopefully that’s still vivid in their minds. Hopefully our leaders see that it won’t be a cakewalk and you have to take every game as though it’s your last game. Hopefully that’s how they will approach it.”
Riverside is led by guards Malik Crowfield, Von Julien, Herb McGee, Jordan Andrews and center Joe Anderson.
“I feel like we are getting healthy, and what I really like is how well our bench is playing,” Byrd said. “They are shooting well, and it’s not much of a drop off. This needs to be a fun tournament for us, not a sorrowful time for us.”
Riverside is one of two New Orleans area teams to grab a No. 1 seed.
While Riverside didn’t come as a surprise, perhaps Salmen did.
The Spartans (25-5) earned the top spot in Class 4A and will host Bastrop in the opening round on Friday.
“You still have to lace them up and you’ve got to play,” Salmen coach Jay Carlin said. “If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, you can be one and done.”
In Class 5A, four of the six Catholic League schools earned playoff spots, with Rummel squeezing in as the No. 32 seed. The Raiders will travel to play top-seed Natchitoches Central in the first round.
No. 4 St. Augustine, which won the Catholic League title, will host No. 29 Carencro in the first round.
Jesuit is the 18th seed and will travel to play No. 15 Mandeville, while No. 9 Brother Martin will host No. 24 Comeaux.
Helen Cox is the highest seeded local team in Class 5A, earning the No. 2 seed.
The Cougars will host Destrehan in the first round.
In Class 4A, defending state champion Landry-Walker is the No. 6 seed and hosts Loyola Prep.
Edna Karr is the No. 3 seed and will host LaGrange, which it eliminated last season in the playoffs.
Landry-Walker and Karr could possibly meet in the quarterfinals, with the winner advancing to the Top 28 in Lake Charles.
In Class 3A, John Curtis is the highest seeded local team at No. 3.
Curtis will host North Webster, which ended its season last year in the playoffs.
Curtis would play the winner of Miller-McCoy and Carroll in the second round.
Miller-McCoy, a No. 19 seed, is playing its final season with the school closing down at the end of the school year.
In 1A, defending state champion Country Day is the No. 4 seed and hosts No. 29 Covenant Christian in the first round.
Defending state champions in each class are: Natchitoches Central (5A), Landry-Walker (4A), University High (3A), Riverside (2A), Country Day (1A), Midland (C) and New Living Word (B).
The state championships will be held March 13-14 at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.