When it was announced Madison Prep Academy was moving from Class 1A to Class 2A this season, many basketball enthusiasts started clamoring for the matchup.
That became possible when the playoff brackets were released and the two state powers were opposite each other, meaning the only way No. 1 seeded Madison Prep and No. 2 Riverside Academy could square off was in the state championship game.
The only thing left for Madison Prep (32-4) and Riverside (28-5), who meet in Saturday’s state championship game, is to see if the game can match the expectation that’s been building for nearly a year.
Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“I know it’s a highly anticipated game from the fan’s perspective,” MPA coach Jeff Jones said. “As players, you want to play the best and Riverside has probably been the best team in the state, regardless of class, when you look at their body of work over the last five years.”
Outside an appearance at an LSU team camp in the summer, the two teams have never played in a regular game.
Riverside’s been the benchmark in Class 2A the past five seasons with five state titles, including the past three under coach Timmy Byrd.
The Rebels are making their seventh straight title-game appearance following a 71-52 semifinal victory over Country Day, extending their win streak to 14 games.
“We’d have it no other way,” Jones said. “You want to play the best teams to see where you stack up. We know Riverside has owned 2A since they’ve been in it. We knew if we were going to make any noise in 2A we’d have to go see them.”
MPA’s put together an equally impressive résumé with its fourth trip to a state championship game in Jones’ six seasons. The Chargers have risen to the test in winning state titles in Class B and last season in Class 1A.
Riverside features a guard-oriented, up-tempo attack, led by sophomore Jared Butler (21 points per game) and seniors Malik Crowfield (20 ppg), a Virginia Commonwealth signee, and guard Herb McGee (17 ppg), a South Alabama signee.
The trio combined for 58 of Riverside’s 71 points in its semifinal victory.
MPA, which has won 16 straight, features a little more size in 6-foot-4 junior guard Josh Anderson (18.1 ppg) and 6-3 guard Jamel Robinson (10.7 ppg) on the perimeter to with such inside leaders as 6-6 sophomore center Josh LeBlanc (17.3 ppg), 6-5 senior forward William Lloyd (6.7 ppg) and 6-5 sophomore forward Kobe Julien (6.2 ppg).
Anderson’s 27 points and LeBlanc’s 13 were pivotal in MPA’s 66-56 double-overtime semifinal win over North Caddo.
“We’re a lot of like,” Jones said. “I think it will be a very entertaining game for the fans.”