A few days after being derailed by a point against McKinley in the semifinals of the East Baton Rouge Parish tournament, Scotlandville soon learned the defeat was more in part because of attitude than aptitude.
“We didn’t like that loss at all,” Scotlandville junior center Garrick Green said. “When we watched film, we saw that we got outplayed. Coach (Carlos Sample) talked to us and got our minds right. Since then, he’s been on us harder and harder. We knew we had to pick it up if we wanted a (state) championship.”
What’s transpired over the past three months since that setback has been an 18-game win streak for Scotlandville that’s included an undefeated District 4-5A championship and return to the Top 28 tournament for the sixth consecutive year.
The next step in that process matches No. 3 Scotlandville (31-4) against No. 7 Byrd (26-5) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys tournament at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“I told our guys after that loss we need to give people our best game,” Sample said. “We didn’t give our best game that night, and after that, they dedicated themselves to giving me their best whether that was at practice or in a game.
“We’ve had some awesome practices ever since,” Sample continued. “It’s spilled over into game night. Those guys have a will to win and know the process to win because they’ve been through that. They understand success and handle themselves well and are humble.”
Scotlandville, which has its streak of EBR titles stopped at three straight, endured a similar fate on a bigger stage in last year’s state championship game, falling 60-53 to Natchitoches Central in the Hornets’ effort to win the state’s largest classification for a third consecutive year.
Scotlandville retooled its lineup but has also been able to rely on players with Top 28 experience who have followed the program’s formula of playing in-you-face man defense to compliment the team’s balanced scoring.
Senior guard LaMarcus Lee, a Tennessee-Chattanooga signee, tops Scotlandville with a 17.5 average, followed by junior guard Jordan Adebutu (16), freshman guard Ja’Vonte Smart (15), Green (14 points, nine rebounds) and sophomore forward Lamarq Williams (9.0).
“We have experience on the big stage,” Sample said. “We’re looking at it as giving our best effort. We have to make sure we’re settled in and pay attention to detail. Playing in that arena in the Top 28 give us an advantage because we’ve been there. But we understand we’ve got to play the game.”
Byrd, which has won 13 of its last 14 games, advanced to its first Top 28 tournament since 1997 with a buzzer-beating 61-59 home victory over Helen Cox.
The Yellow Jackets feature an offense that has reached 80-plus points 14 times this season, paced by the 20 points of 6-foot-3 senior guard Chad Lott and 18 points of senior point guard Montrey Thomas.
In contrast, Scotlandville has limited all but two of its opponents to 63 or less during the team’s current win streak.
“We’re a defense-first team,” Green said. “If we get in there and hold them to a low amount of points, we know we can score. We know the offense will come.”