LAKE CHARLES — Skeptics wondered if Scotlandville still had that magic after losing to Natchitoches Central a year ago in the title game.
With a stifling matchup zone defense and freshman guard Ja’Vonte Smart leading the way, the Hornets proved they’ve got it. In this case, “got it” meant another Class 5A state crown.
Scotlandville exorcised any demons from 2014 with a cathartic 42-34 victory over Natchitoches Central in the Class 5A title game that closed Friday’s action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 tournament.
“Last year after we lost, that was probably the worst feeling ever,” guard Jordan Adebutu said. “We knew we had to come back this year and carry out assignments and do everything Coach told us to do. It’s a great feeling being back state champions.”
The savvy Smart led the way with a game-high 18 points and nine rebounds and was voted the title game’s Most Outstanding Player. It is the third title in four years for the Hornets (33-4), who made their sixth straight appearance in a 5A title game. A crowd of 8,002 attended the three-game session at Burton Coliseum. Natchitoches Central finishes 29-3.
“I want to thank the coaching staff for making us work hard at practice,” Smart said. “I want to thank the older guys for pushing me. I thought I had an OK game; I could have done better.”
Smart wasn’t the only major factor. Garrick Green finished with a game-high 13 rebounds and nine points. The 6-foot-4 Green was also at the heart of the defense that shut down NCHS’ 6-9 Cameron Lard, who didn’t score after the first three minutes and fouled out with just four points and three rebounds. Adebutu added 11 points for a SHS team that outrebounded Natchitoches Central 33-16.
“Last year he (Lard) had his career high,” Green said, referencing Lard’s 26 point, 10-rebound performance from a year ago. “We had to get it back.”
Austin Guy finished with 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field and was the only NCHS player to score in double figures. Danny Cohen added eight.
The Chiefs spent part of the second half trying to draw Scotlandville out of its zone. That ploy worked for while but also took valuable time off the clock. Natchitoches Central was held scoreless for 41/2 minutes in the fourth quarter and also made 1 of 6 free throws at one juncture.
“First of all, I love my guys,” NCHS coach Micah Coleman said. “They’re hurting right now, and I’m hurting for them. There’s nothing we can say or do to make it go away.
“With that said, I’m still proud of my young men. They competed as hard as they could and couldn’t get the ball to fall for us in a couple of spots where we really needed it to. We congratulate Scotlandville. They had a great plan, and they stuck with it.”
There was a tendency to have a flashback to last year when Lard scored the first basket. Lard scored again as the Chiefs raced out to an 8-3 first-quarter lead.
Scotlandville eventually settled in but Natchitoches Central took an 11-10 lead into the second quarter despite a late 3-pointer by Smart.
Guy made a jumper that gave NCHS a 15-14 advantage. The Hornets scored the next four points, including a dunk by Green off a no look pass from Smart in transition.
Another jumper by Guy and two free throws by Kendarius Aaron put Natchitoches Central ahead 19-18 with 2:04 left.
Aaron also scored the final points of the half on a 3-pointer from the left wing just before the buzzer, giving the Chiefs a 22-18 edge.
Natchitoches Central started its delay tactics in the third quarter.
The Chiefs led by as much as six points before Scotlandville scored eight of the final nine points in the quarter. Two free throws by Smart sent the Hornets into the final quarter with a 26-25 lead.
Guy tied the game at 29, and then Aaron gave NCHS a 32-31 lead with 5:21 left.
Smart’s tip-in off a missed layup by Green in transition provided the final gritty momentum shift.
Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample stressed toughness and his players executed. A Wednesday replay of last year’s title-game loss provided some lasting momentum.
“(The Chiefs) have a great team,” Sample said. “I thought rebounding was the difference. And toughness.”