When is a loss more than just a loss? If you’re the boys basketball team at Doyle High, the home loss to district 10-2A rival French Settlement on Jan. 22 is an example.
Doyle, which sat at No. 4 in the LHSAA’s unofficial power ratings then and in last week’s final regular season poll, led the Lions by nine points early in the fourth quarter. That lead slipped away eventually turning into a 68-66 loss. It was a stinging loss that caused the Tigers to take stock of themselves.
Doyle hasn’t lost since.
“I wouldn’t say it was a good loss, but it kind of gave us a wake-up call,” said Doyle coach Daniel Kennedy, who has led the Tigers to the playoffs in each of his nine seasons. Still, a sticking point has been the second round. Of those nine playoff appearances, Doyle has made the second round five times, but only once did it advance to the quarterfinals where it lost to North Caddo.
The loss provided an opportunity for Doyle to hit the reset button, and it has won eight games as it heads into the playoffs with its highest seeding ever. Included in that eight-game run is a 79-62 win at French Settlement on Feb. 8, one of six district wins during the streak.
The wins have helped Doyle maintain its spot in the Class 2A power ratings, but the climb to that lofty perch began before the season when Kennedy put together an ambitious schedule. Leading a veteran team that featured seven seniors, Kennedy’s goal was to have his team as prepared as it could be to meet challenges in the postseason.
“We scheduled probably the hardest schedule we’ve ever played,” Kennedy said. “We expected to be good and we wanted to challenge ourselves so that when we got to the playoffs, no matter who we were playing, we knew we had already played competition just as good.
“Our team has really done a good job and competed well.”
Doyle has been led by four players with scoring averages in double figures — guards Braden Keen, Andrew Yuratich, and Logan Turner, and forward Hartland Litolff. They helped the Tigers meet their regular season challenges that included six games against class 5A teams.
One of those games was against Walker High, which Doyle visited for a game on Dec. 8. Although the Livingston Parish tournament was set aside for this season, the game provided a snapshot of what could easily have been its championship contest. In an early-season morale booster, Doyle won 72-70.
Other important December games were a competitive loss at Anacoco, Class B’s no.1 team, and a win over Central, one of district 4-5A’s top teams. In January, a 95-62 win at Logansport was highlighted by Turner’s 37-point effort when he made 10 3-pointers.
As it heads into the playoffs with a chance to take advantage of a favorable bracket, Doyle appears to be peaking. As such, the Tigers have their eyes on an appearance at the Top 28 championship tournament at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
To make it to Lake Charles, Doyle would have to earn that elusive quarterfinal win.
“If we have any pressure, it's only because we put that on ourselves,” Kennedy said. “We feel like we should make the Top 28. We feel like we can win three games, not that they’re going to be easy, but because that is our expectation. With the schedule we played, we won’t be intimidated to play anyone.”
Doyle begins its quest to reach Lake Charles later this week when it hosts a first-round playoff game. Extending its eight-game winning streak will be of prime importance for Doyle as it seeks to avoid a playoff loss that would send it home for the season.