Rummel came oh-so close to missing the LHSAA boys basketball playoffs for a second straight season.
Just .07 points separated the No. 32 Raiders, the last team in, from John Ehret when the LHSAA announced the Class 5A playoff pairings on Monday.
Rummel coach Troy Holley liked his team’s chances.
“We thought we would get in with an 18-9 record,” Holley said. “When you win twice as many as you lose, you’d like to think that is good enough to get you in. You just never know.”
But Holley is glad to be back in the playoffs after missing out last season with a team that he felt was good enough to make it.
That team had several key players who were also on the Rummel football team that played for the state championship in football for the second straight year.
“We were very football-heavy last year,” said Holley, in his seventh season. “It was a great group of guys. We scheduled really tough last year, and we had guys hurt from football and we just struggled. We beat a lot of good teams and still didn’t go. We were probably one of the best teams, talent wise, that didn’t make the playoffs. Out of 30 games, we played 17 games without four starters.”
This year’s team, led by senior guards Trey Harris and Caleb Burks, is different.
“We had three or four starters that didn’t play football and that helped,” Holley said. “They work hard. I love having football guys on the team, but earlier in the season we had more success because we had our core group together. That really helped us this year.”
Burks and Harris are joined in the starting lineup by senior center Adam Karrigan, sophomore forward Ashken Stamm and guard freshman Iman Fazande.
Trey LeBlanc also plays big minutes in the rotation.
Rummel is one of four Catholic League teams to make the playoffs, joining district champion St. Augustine (No. 4), No. 9 Brother Martin and No. 18 Jesuit.
But the Raiders have the toughest road to Lake Charles of all.
They open up on the road Friday at 6:30 p.m. against top-seeded Natchitoches Central, the defending 5A champion.
“They are big with a lot of experience,” Holley said. “They are a good team and well coached. It’ll be tough to go up there and win. You have to limit their possessions and take care of the basketball, but that’s easier to say and harder to do. You have to play solid.”
Rummel last won a state basketball title when it went back-to-back in 1977 and 1978. The Raiders made it to the finals in the mid-1990’s and reached the quarterfinals two years ago, losing to Comeaux.
But to get back that far again, they have a tall task ahead against Natchitoches Central, which has an impressive 28-2 record.
“You can’t play up and down with them and try to outscore them,” Holley said. “We knew we are not going to win 72-70. We will do everything we can to keep it under control and allow us a chance to compete.”