For Southern Lab’s Clark, Tensas game a family affair _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK Southern Lab coach Devan Clark

For Southern Lab boys basketball coach Devan Clark, the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys’ Top 28 Basketball Tournament isn’t just a former star bringing his alma mater back to its glory days of championships past.

It’s a full-on family affair.

The No. 3 Kittens’ coach is plenty familiar with their semifinals opponent, No. 10 Tensas, seeing as almost his entire family is from the area, including his father who attended the school.

“It’s crazy,” Clark said. “My cousins have been texting me all night and all morning. I still have a lot of family still out there in north Louisiana and I can imagine this is going to be a really big game.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like this.”

Clark — who was a member of five Southern Lab state titles in the mid-90s and the coach of four Northside teams that reached the semifinals before jumping to his former school last season — has brought the Kittens back to the Top 28 Tournament for the first time since 2012.

The teams play at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Top 28 is more familiar to Scotlandville, who will attempt to defend its 5A state championship during its seventh consecutive trip to the semifinal round.

The No. 2 Hornets play No. 11 Ouachita Parish at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday. It’s the first time the two programs have met since the 2013 state final that gave Scotlandville its first championship under coach Carlos Sample.

“Expectations are high, but this is a different year,” Sample said. “Last year and the past six years can’t help us this year. These seniors, they want to go out with a little legacy.”

No. 13 East Ascension looks to become the highest seed to reach the Class 5A final since McKinley did so as a No. 14 seed in 2012. But first, the Spartans must survive top-seeded Natchitoches Central at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

With no players remaining since East Ascension’s last Top 28 appearance in 2013, second-year coach Barry Whittington will have to find a way to overcome a much more experienced Chiefs squad.

“The only person with experience going to the Top 28 is me when I brought Donaldsonville there a couple years ago, so I’m going to try to glean from that experience,” Whittington said. “The biggest thing for the young team that I have is for them to focus on what their individual jobs will be.”

No. 2 University Lab has a lot more than hardware on the line in its semifinal matchup with No. 3 St. Louis as the Cubs try to make history by winning three-straight Class 3A state titles for the first time in school history. They’ll tip off at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday.

“We’ve got a lot of young kids where this is their first shot,” U-high coach Joe Spencer said. “They’re focused more on this is the next game and about this season more than anything else.”

Class 2A’s top seed, Madison Prep, has its sights set its third championship in four years, none of which will be in the same classification.

The Chargers have reached five consecutive Top 28 Tournaments between Class B, 1A and now 2A in its first season in that competition.

They’ll play No. 4 North Caddo at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.

“You can’t substitute big-game experience and we’ve had some big games,” Madison Prep coach Jeffery Jones said. “That stage, it’s going to be incredible and I hope our guys can handle it.”