I’ll skip the seemingly obligatory comments about the basketball playoffs kicking off the end of an era for LHSAA sports.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know LHSAA member principals voted last month to extend its split of championships along select/nonselect lines to boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball and softball.
But that isn’t scheduled to happen until the 2016-17 school year begins.
The focus now should simply be on basketball — girls basketball to start with. Twenty-three local teams begin their girls basketball playoff quests Thursday night.
Some may be destined for an early exit, but many are dreaming of a playoff run that sends them to Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center in Hammond for the Girls Top 28 tournament set for March 1-5.
And why not?
For the first time in five years girls basketball returns to the championship site that showcased some of its greatest games and players.
Can a team from the Baton Rouge area be one of the seven champions? Yes, it can happen for a variety of reasons.
Several local playoff teams are part of SLU’s tourney lore, and that could be a factor. Between 2001 and 2011 Hammond was a comfort zone for many local teams.
The best year was 2006 when four teams claimed state titles. Class 4A St. Michael the Archangel won the first of its back-to-back titles in Hammond in 2008. The Warriors are a No. 2 seed in 4A.
Southern Lab (2004) and White Castle (2005) won Class 1A state titles in Hammond. Ditto for Class B Holden in 2006. SLHS is No. 5 and White Castle, a semifinalist last year, is seeded 14th. Holden is a No. 4 seed.
Third-seeded University High, winner of the past two Class 3A titles, is the area’s only defending champion. Walker, this year a 17th-seed, was the Class 5A runner-up last season.
There will be challenges for both teams. Injuries have whittled U-High’s roster down to less than 10 players. On Monday, UHS coach Bonita Johnson found out what she suspected — post player Destiny Ephrom is out the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Nicholls State signee Keeona Brown leads Walker, which has won 14 of its last 21 games.
St. Michael doesn’t have a lot of size. But the Warriors have the guard duo of Sabree Wilson and Tyler Morrison. They’re battle tested and fundamentally sound. And SMHS was in the semifinals in 2013.
The tallest player to watch is 6-foot-1 Southern Lab sophomore Cailain Williams, an LSU commitment who is adept at shooting 3-pointers.
Parkview Baptist has never made it to a Top 28 girls tourney. But the fourth-seeded Eagles of 3A have their star in guard Skyler Goodwin. A team located just outside the area, Jewel Sumner is 30-0 and the top 3A seed.
The three highest-seeded Livingston Parish teams, Holden, and fifth-seeded Denham Springs of 5A and No. 6 Albany of 3A, should not be overlooked. Livingston has a love affair with girls basketball that seems to play a role in the tourney each year.
Walker was a runner-up last year, while Doyle was the 2A runner-up in 2014.
Could a relative unknown like BR’s sixth-seeded Madison Prep make it in 2A? Or maybe Episcopal, a No. 9 seed, makes the tourney for the first time since 2007.
Whose turn will it be this year? Who will be the LHSAA’s “Super Seven” for girls basketball? It’s all about the games now — as it should be.