It seems natural to link McKinley and Scotlandville together. The schools represent different eras of basketball dominance.
They played each other in the Class 5A title game in 2012. But they haven’t squared off in more than two years, before current McKinley coach Harold Boudreaux took over. And the Panthers won that game in the EBR tourney semifinals.
“This is an important step for our program,” Boudreaux said. “We have much respect for all opponents, but especially for Scotlandville. This is something new for us. They are the standard — they’re in the finals every year.”
Scotlandville has been in the Class 5A title game for the past seven years, winning three times. The top-seeded Hornets (29-2) face No. 5 McKinley (22-12) in a Division I semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA boys basketball tournament. Game time is 3 p.m. Thursday at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
A win would give Scotlandville an eighth straight trip to the title game, a feat unprecedented in the LHSAA’s top classification. McKinley certainly isn’t a fill-in-the-blank opponent for the Hornets, but that doesn’t change the task at hand.
“It is strange that we haven’t played McKinley in that long,” Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said. “We didn’t play them in the parish tournament the last time we played in it, and this year we didn’t play in the tournament.
“I had a chance to watch them play. I saw their first playoff game with Rummel and was impressed. They ran their sets and were disciplined on offense. They were solid on defense.”
While Scotlandville has chiseled its basketball legacy during the last decade, McKinley's legacy traces back to two legendary coaches, the late Carl Stewart and Teddy Brown. Stewart’s teams achieved national prominence in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, starting before either school joined the LHSAA when Louisiana’s schools were integrated.
Hall of Famer Don Chaney, who went on to star for the University of Houston and the Boston Celtics, is the best-known player from McKinley. The attention Thursday will be focused on two juniors, Scotlandville’s 6-foot-4 Ja’Vonte Smart and 6-3 Tyrese Radford of McKinley.
Smart has become a household name. He is one of the nation’s top prospects for 2018 and is Louisiana’s reigning Mr. Basketball. Smart averages 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.
Radford was a freshman when he made two free throws with 6.5 seconds left to give McKinley its 52-51 win over Scotlandville in the EBR semifinals Dec. 28, 2014. Radford averages 13.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
“What McKinley does goes through Radford, and so much of what we do goes through Ja’Vonte,” Sample said. “I think there’s a misconception, the idea that we have a bunch of Division I players. We don’t ... neither team does. What we do have are kids who play hard and buy into the program.”
The key tasks for McKinley will be managing Smart and handling Scotlandville’s defense.
“I’ve told our guys, ‘You want to see intense, in-your-face defense? Well, here it comes,’ ” Boudreaux said. “Of course, any time two local teams play with the chance to play in a championship game, it’s a good thing.”