Denham Springs basketball coach Kevin Caballero is well aware of what Scotlandville has been able to accomplish over the past few years.
Six straight appearances in the 5A state championship game, including three wins, a host of players who moved to the college level and a seemingly permanent place in the top 10 of the weekly power rankings.
Caballero is also aware the Hornets are the next team up on Denham Springs’ road to a district title.
“To win a state championship, or even win a district championship, you’ve got to go through Scotlandville the past few years,” Caballero said. “It’s going to be a huge challenge. They’ve been playing extremely well — you can see that by just looking at the district scores — but we’ve been playing well, too.”
The past month has been a desperate climb out from relative obscurity for the Yellow Jackets (13-11) after a 5-11 start before the Christmas break. Since the start of the new year, though, Denham Springs has gone on an eight-game win streak, including 4-0 in district play.
It’s been a stark turnaround for a team that needed time to adjust to a new coach and even more time to heal after a barrage of injuries plagued the first half of the season.
Senior Bryce Coleman was a key missing piece for the Yellow Jackets through the early season troubles after a nagging high ankle injury kept him out of almost half the team’s games, but his recent return to the court has helped Denham Springs regain control around the post.
But Tuesday’s 7 p.m. tipoff at Scotlandville (24-2) will likely be the first major test for the Yellow Jackets since the break.
“(Winning) sure does make it a whole lot nicer,” Caballero said. “They’re finding out winning is good and they’re enjoying wining, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Elsewhere, being an underdog might have more to do with mindset than rankings.
No. 15 Catholic High is ranked higher than No. 28 McKinley, but Catholic coach Mark Cascio said he doesn’t feel like much of a favorite going into the game, which is set to tip off at 7:15 p.m. at McKinley.
The Panthers (16-8) are in the driver’s seat for the District 5-5A title at 4-0, while the defending district champs have dropped five of their last eight games since Jan. 1, including a disappointing 1-3 record in league play.
“We were No. 6 at one point in the power ratings and the last couple of weeks we’ve just been sliding,” Cascio said. “We’re 1-3 in district, so I don’t consider ourselves to be the favorite. If anything, we’re the underdog. Our backs are against the wall and we have to play our best no matter who it is.”
Cascio said he can’t pinpoint what the problem has been the past couple of weeks because it’s been something different every night. One game the Bears (16-8) won’t shoot well and then another game they won’t guard well and then another they’ll simply lose focus.
But the coach is hoping last Thursday’s 53-42 win against Dutchtown will help put the program back on track, saying he’s pleased with the past week of practices.
Either way, Catholic can’t afford any more setbacks.
“I do (consider this game a must-win), not because McKinley is 4-0 but because we’re 1-3,” Cascio said. “No matter who we play, it’s a must-win for us in the next six games. We’ve got to put together some wins.”