Fambrough: Host sites seek help from other venues to coordinate expanded championships _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Denham Springs' Lexi McMorris (32) hits a layup in the first half of Denham Springs' Girls Top 28 Tournament game against Mandeville Tuesday in SLU's University Center in Hammond.

Here’s a twist of fate no one was counting on in the days since LHSAA principals voted to reaffirm an expanded select/nonselect split of its championships.

There’s a spirit of cooperation among the host sites for the expanded championships. And for now, at least, it beats the heck out of the growing pains some were expecting.

“The way we see it: We bought into this, and we’re going to try and find a way to make it work,” said Eric Zartler, sales director of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I’ve met with the people in Sulphur, and we know it won’t be easy.

“You’re talking about adding possibly 40 teams to the state softball tournament and 20 to the baseball tournament. This week I’ll be meeting with the folks at Burton (Coliseum) to see where they are with this and what can be done.”

Once the votes were in on June 8, LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said his staff would get down to the business of formulating plans for the split as it expands to boys/girls basketball, baseball and softball.

So far, the responses have been positive from the Lake Charles and Hammond areas. Sulphur hosts the baseball and softball tournaments. Lake Charles-based Burton Coliseum is set to host the boys basketball tournament for one more year. Southeastern’s University Center is the girls basketball site in 2017.

Tournaments are what the Sulphur Parks and Recreation Department does. Zartler detailed a list of youth tournaments going on this weekend. The Frasch and McMurry Park complexes stay busy through the spring and summer.

But because the Sulphur effort is often driven by an army of volunteers, there are questions. Zartler said parks officials and the staff at Burton have received blueprints of what to work with from the LHSAA. The baseball and softball titles awarded will grow from seven to 12.

Expanded dates and possibly extra weekends could fit into the mix. University Center Director Duane Shafer said he has not seen a plan sent to Hammond organizers but says it has been discussed.

Shafer said expanding the tourney to the next week could bring a slight conflict with Southeastern Louisiana’s practices for its conference tourney. Should the LHSAA opt for a smaller format, bringing only the 12 title games to the basketball venues, the assignment will be a familiar one.

Shafer said the possibility of hosting four games a day over three days is similar to the regional semifinals SLU hosted for the LHSAA in 2012 and 2013.

“There is some flexibility there,” Shafer said. “It’ll all come down to the format (the LHSAA) goes with.”

Now if only getting the select/nonselect schools factions together was this simple. But of course we know it’s not.

Hall of Fame pride

The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inducts another class this weekend in Natchitoches, and it’s a group those who love high school sports should salute.

Louisiana has some of the best homegrown talent around. Perhaps no other class in recent years epitomizes that better than this one.

St. Thomas More football coach Jim Hightower is No. 2 on Louisiana’s all-time wins list and is the obvious tie between high school sports and the state’s Hall of Fame.

Take a closer look at the backgrounds of the other inductees and their high school ties become just as obvious.

Ex-Major League pitcher Ben Sheets was a baseball and basketball standout at St. Amant. NFL running back Anthony Thomas and NBA player P.J. Brown both played at Winnfield High.

Xavier/Louisiana College women’s basketball coach Janice Joseph-Richard was a star player at Peabody before becoming a top player at LC. Another coach, innovative LSU recruiter Red Swanson, played at Quitman.