The road to Lake Charles begins this week, with boys basketball teams from across the state trying to bring home one of seven state championships. (Unfortunately, that number will balloon to 12 this time next year when the split format makes its way to basketball, but that’s a column for another day.)
Here’s a look at some of the top storylines heading into the boys playoffs after the LHSAA released the playoff pairings Monday:
Best first-round matchups
Here are five games involving local teams that you will want to keep an eye on:
5. CHALMETTE AT WALKER: With one of the state’s top juniors in Mitchell Robinson, the Owls are a dangerous team, even on the road. The 7-footer, who has committed to Texas A&M, gives Chalmette a shot. A first-round win, and Chalmette would get to roll out the welcome mat and play at home against top-seed Nachitoches Central.
4. CURTIS AT SCOTLANDVILLE: Yes, I know Curtis is just a No. 31 seed. And yes, I know they are on the road against the defending state champions and No. 2 seed. But still, it’s Curtis, a team that won’t go down without a fight. The upset will be hard to pull off, but if the Patriots can somehow hang around and keep it close, watch out.
3. BONNABEL AT EAST ST. JOHN: Two teams from the area battle it out, with the winner likely getting Landry-Walker in the second round.
2. SALMEN AT BEN FRANKLIN: Salmen reached the 4A title game last year and came oh-so-close to winning it all. Jay Carlin’s team makes the short trip from the north shore to take on a Ben Franklin team that has quietly put together a 22-4 record.
1. BROTHER MARTIN AT WEST JEFFERSON: The Crusaders are one of just three Catholic League teams to make the playoffs (St. Aug and Curtis are the others.) Tough draw having to go to the westbank to take on the No. 6 Buccaneers, who spent much of the beginning of the season as the top seed in 5A. Brother Martin should be plenty motivated. West Jefferson ended the Crusaders’ season 47-46 last season in the second round.
Players to watch
We’ve mentioned Robinson already. But guys like De’Jon Jarreau (McDonogh 35), Vincent Phillips (Karr) and Lamar Peters (Landry-Walker) are good enough to put their teams on their backs and take them all the way to Lake Charles. In the smaller classifications, Country Day’s backcourt of Romin Williams and Michael Corchiani can give foes fits. The Cajuns are a No. 3 seed and could possibly run into district foe and No. 2 seed Riverside in the semifinals.
Newman drew a 16 seed in 2A and gets a winnable first round home game against David Thibodaux. But a win there and the Greenies would likely travel to powerhouse and top seed Madison Prep. In 3A, KIPP Renaissance squeezes in as a No. 32 seed but opens at No. 1 Peabody.
Going for more
Riverside hasn’t looked as invincible this year as it has in years past. But don’t be surprised if the Rebels win a fourth straight state title. The trio of Malik Crowfield, Herb McGee and Jared Butler makes the No. 2 seed Rebels one of the most dangerous teams in the state. While Riverside is trying to make it four straight, Landry-Walker is going for its third straight title. The last two were in 4A, but now the Charging Buccaneers are in 5A, where the path to a crown appears to be a bit tougher with the likes of Natchitoches Central and Scotlandville.
Don’t sleep on them
DE LA SALLE: The Cavaliers are a No. 7 seed but are battle-tested and hot. They have big wins this season over teams like Curtis, St. Aug and Brother Martin and have won 18 of their last 19 games. So watch out.
Speaking of hot
There’s not a hotter team in the state than St. Paul’s. The Wolves are riding a 30-game winning streak. Their only loss this season came in the season opener way back in November to Parkview Baptist. The Wolves have to stretch their wining streak to five more games to claim a state title.
So does everyone else wanting to hoist a state championship trophy in Lake Charles?
Let the games begin.