Madison Prep made its hunger for a state championship known moments after losing to Country Day in last year’s title game. And a semifinal victory over Country Day was a tantalizing appetizer.
The Chargers feasted on Lafayette Christian Academy in the Class 1A final that opened Saturday’s action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 tournament.
Most Outstanding Player Brandon Sampson scored a game-high 19 points punctuated by several crowd-pleasing dunks, and Joshua Anderson added 18 as Madison Prep ran away with a 72-46 victory.
“I’m thankful … very thankful,” MPA coach Jeff Jones said. “You have no idea how tough it is to go from wire to wire with a target on your back.
“These young men were challenged and they dedicated themselves to this season after coming up short last year. I’m just so proud, so happy and overjoyed for them right now.”
The Chargers (35-1) end the season on a 33-game winning streak. They were 34-0 against Louisiana schools. MPA’s lone loss was to Mississippi power Calloway High on Nov. 28. It is the second state title in three years for MPA, the Class B champion in 2013.
The game offered vindication for the 6-foot-5 Sampson, a St. John’s commitment who struggled in the second half of last season’s loss to Country Day.
“Last year I fell short in the championship game to Country Day,” Sampson said. “I knew that losing the championship game last year was due to a lack of effort in the second half.
“I just tried to go and hard as could in both halves.”
Joshua LeBlanc, the Chargers’ 6-6 post player, once again played a key role on defense. LeBlanc scored 14 points and was credited with two blocked shots, though he altered many more.
Greg Williams finished with 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting for Lafayette Christian (30-4), which made its first title-game appearance after losing to MPA in the semifinals last season. Kalob LeDoux added 11 for the Knights, who were limited to 31 percent shooting.
Madison Prep converted more than 68 percent of its field for the second straight game, shooting 68.2 (30 of 44) thanks to a series of transition baskets and slashing moves through the lane.
“They came out and played aggressively,” Lafayette Christian coach Byron Starks said. “They were the better team in this particular moment. They got a lot of transition buckets, guys who hit shots early in the ballgame and a lot free throws.
“They kind of coasted from that point on. But I thought our guys came out and gave a valiant effort and I thought we did the best we could.”
The Knights got off to a slow start, while Madison Prep hit on all cylinders. Williams gave LCA a 2-0 lead with a jumper from the right corner. In what seemed like the blink of an eye later, LeBlanc scored on a layup to give MPA a 14-2 lead. The Chargers took an 18-6 lead into the second quarter and built on it.
Any hope Lafayette Christian had of whittling the lead down to single digits soon evaporated. But a late run that included baskets by Williams and LeDoux left the Knights within possible striking distance.
Madison Prep’s 36-21 halftime lead nearly doubled in the third quarter. Yuryk Lazard’s layup sent the Chargers into the final quarter with 56-30 lead that grew to as much as 33 points in the fourth quarter.
Jones compared the Chargers to the 2005 Glen Oaks team that was 36-0 when he was an assistant coach, saying the players on both teams shared a love and unselfishness for each other.
The MPA coach also lauded his team’s defense, saying the Chargers were eager to be known as a team that did more than score points. He also offered his thoughts on moving to the 2A ranks with Country Day next season to compete with another traditional power, Riverside Academy.
“We’re excited about moving up,” Jones said. We lose three really good players in Brandon Sampson, Jalen Brown and Christion Thompson. But we have some good guys coming back who have championship experience. We’re up for the challenge.”