Madison Prep boys basketball coach Jeff Jones pegged Scotlandville as Louisiana’s top team in all classifications nearly two months ago.
As much as he wanted to, Jones saw nothing that changed his opinion Tuesday night.
Scotlandville took control in the second quarter and used its pressure defense like a vise grip to grind out a 51-44 victory over Madison Prep in the title game of the Bob Pettit/Coca-Cola/East Baton Rouge parish tournament.
Sophomore star Ja’Vonte Smart got in early foul trouble but scored 10 fourth-quarter points to power the Hornets (15-1) to their fourth EBR title in the past five years and fifth overall.
“I just challenged them to come out tonight and give their best effort,” Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said. “I told them to play within the system and take care of the simple detail things.”
Smart finished with a game-high 17 points, and tourney MVP Jaylen Hawkins added 12.
Jamel Robinson had 11 points as the only double-figure scorer for Madison Prep (13-4).
The game between Baton Rouge’s reigning high school basketball royalty attracted a large crowd to Southern’s F.G. Clark Activity Center. Action started at a rapid pace with high emotions and high-flying action.
Garrick Green set the tone with a turnaround shot in the lane and a tip-in for defending Class 5A state champion Scotlandville. Madison Prep’s Josh Anderson showed no ill effects from a broken wrist that put him on the sideline for three weeks. The junior drove through the lane to tie it at 7 with 3:45 left in the first quarter.
Robinson made 1 of 2 free throws 23 seconds later to give the Chargers their only lead of the first half at 8-7.
The score was tied at 10 with a minute left. But Green converted a layup and a follow shot with 58.6 seconds left. Hawkins’ 3-pointer from the corner with 21.9 seconds remaining sent the Hornets to the second quarter with a 16-10 lead.
With Smart on the bench after two early fouls, Hawkins took a lead role. The 5-foot-9 junior responded by making three crucial 3-pointers.
“It’s like Coach Sample says: ‘When one player goes out, we plug another player in,’ ” Hawkins said. “We’ve got to keep it going … keep it rolling. I’ve been doing this for three years now, and I’m filling the role I’m supposed to play.”
Hawkins’ third 3-pointer extended Scotlandville’s lead to 21-12 in the second quarter. He also had the assist on a basket by Malik Williams that ultimately sent the Hornets to the locker room with a 23-14 halftime lead.
Madison Prep, last year’s Class 1A state champion now playing in 2A, nearly grabbed the momentum. The Chargers’ Jharon Whitfield made a circus-like 45-footer at the buzzer but was standing on the out-of-bounds line, nullifying the basket.
Even though different players took turns firing up shots against the Scotlandville defense, Madison Prep never could string together six or eight straight points to force the issue. A 3-pointer by Robinson with 1:02 left in the third quarter got the Chargers within 34-30, but Scotlandville’s Jordan Adebutu countered with a 3-pointer.
Josh Leblanc’s floater in the lane cut Scotlandville’s lead to 37-34 less than a minute into the fourth quarter. Smart answered with a bucket and free throw.
It was that kind of night for the Hornets.
“They did a great job of getting to the free-throw line,” Jones said. “I think they probably shot four times as many free throws as we did. It felt that way. They made plays, and guys hit shots.
“Smart started off slow, but other kids stepped up. And that’s what championship-caliber teams do. We’ll learn something from this. I’m proud of the way we came out and played in the second half. Losing to a team like Scotlandville is not a bad loss. They did everything right to deserve to win.”