So who is the best boys basketball team in Louisiana this season?
There’s no season-ending tournament of champions to determine that. But perhaps that question will be answered Thursday night when Riverside Academy travels to face University High in a showdown of powerhouses.
“If it’s not the best two teams, it’s two of the top three or two of the top four,” said Riverside coach Timmy Byrd. “It’s going to be a dogfight.”
U-High, No. 1 in the LHSAA’s Class 3A power rankings, is 25-2, losing twice in a tournament in Nashville. Riverside, No. 1 in 2A power rankings and also top-ranked in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10, is 21-6.
The Rebels haven’t lost to an in-state team since falling to Scotlandville at the end of 2013.
Riverside beat U-High twice last season: once in the championship game of the Sugar Bowl Classic and again during the regular season.
“I think most people look forward to the game every year,” said U-High coach Joe Spencer. “They are arguably the best team in the state, so it definitely helps us for the playoffs.
“They have so many good players, and we have so many good players. So, I think the fans look forward to it.”
The game will feature Riverside’s guard heavy, up-tempo style against University High’s size.
“It’s two very contrasting styles,” Byrd said. “Their shortest guy is as tall as our tallest guy. They are an inside team. We are an outside team. We like to play fast. They like to play slow.
“It should be a fan friendly game. It will probably come down to just which team is able to impose its will on the other team.”
U-High is led by Skylar Mays, Maxwell Starwood, Wayde Sims, D.J. White and Jalen Johnson. Starwood, the only senior starter, has verbally committed to Tulane.
“Their shortest guys is as tall as our tallest guy,” said Byrd, referring to his post player Joe Anderson.
Anderson is joined by a slew of guards, all who have the ability to knock down the outside shot. They include Von Julien, Malik Crowfield, Herb McGee, Jordan Andrews and freshman Jared Butler.
“Joe does such a good job for them inside, but what makes them so tough is their guards,” Spencer said.
“It doesn’t matter who is in there. They can all shoot. They can all drive. They can all handle the ball. They are just so quick and extremely hard to guard.”
Although Thursday’s game won’t mean anything in the standings, it could go a long way for those wanting to know who the best team in the state is.
Natchitoches Central and Madison Prep would also be in that conversation for the state’s best team. But this one is more about bragging rights.
“It’s become a great rivalry,” Byrd said. “The kids play each other year round. Some play on the same team and so they know each other. There is a lot of pride involved with them wanting to beat us and us wanting to beat them. It should be a war.”