Plenty boys basketball teams want to take their program to an elite level. Aspirations and accomplishments are two different things.
As No. 3 playoff seeds the year after advancing to the quarterfinals, Class 5A Zachary and Division II Liberty have an opportunity to advance to the LHSAA’s boys basketball tourney with two more wins.
This could be the year. Coaches Jonathan McClinton of Zachary and Liberty’s Brandon White stress that there are no shortcuts. The road to all goals continues Tuesday night with regional-round playoff games.
“We have several guys who did not play much last year. One of things that I am most pleased with is their approach to each game,” McClinton said. “They have been consistent, whether it’s Scotlandville or any other team on our schedule.
“As a coach, that is a good thing to see because every playoff game is a challenge.”
The Broncos (22-6) host No. 14 East St. John (23-7) at 6:30 p.m. for a 5A regional-round game. Liberty (18-6) plays No. 14 Ben Franklin (10-7) in Division II regional action at 7 p.m.
Both games help highlight a regional schedule that includes select and nonselect games.
“We have made it to the quarterfinals the last two years, so these guys know what to expect,” White said. “Last year, we went up 16-1 on St. Louis in the first quarter in the quarterfinals and could not maintain it.
“When I played for coach (Harvey) Adger at Glen Oaks he stressed the small things … details. How you practice is how you play. Ben Franklin is a scrappy team. We have to respond to that.”
Though their goals are similar, the the two teams are different. Zachary's young lineup includes 6-foot-4 sophomore Jalen Bolden, who averages 18.3 points and 9.0 rebounds a game.
Bolden also is the most recent recipient of McClinton’s weekly “Grinder Award” given to the player with the most deflections, charges taken and other factors not on a statistics sheet. Other top scorers for Zachary are Jordan DeCuir (15.0) and Brandon Rodgers (12.0).
Liberty is led by a group of seniors who have grown up in the program, including a 6-22 season as freshmen. Junior Jacob Wilson (6-4) leads four double-figures scorers for Liberty. David Weber (14.0) and Zavier Sims (11.0) are next.
There are two common threads. Both teams have a deep bench. White and McClinton also view their teams as similar. They talk frequently and bounce ideas off each other.
“I’m pleased with the things we have accomplished so far,” McClinton said. “Now the focus has to be on each game … one at a time.”
A different mission
Five years ago, St. Amant was a No. 32 seed and had a first-round playoff game at top-seeded Natchitoches Central that was a learning expedition.
The 16th-seeded Gators (20-5) travel to Class 5A No. 1 NCHS (20-1) again at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday with a new objective.
“One of our first games we lost to Bonnabel (No. 5 playoff seed) in a game we could have won," SAHS coach Travis Uzee said. “With COVID and all the ups and downs, they have worked and improved all year.
"Natchitoches Central is real good, but I like this team. I am anxious to see what this group can do.”
Boys basketball playoffs
Tuesday's regional games
No. 16 St. Amant (20-5) at No. 1 Natchitoches Central (20-1), 6:30 p.m.
No. 12 Central (20-6) at No. 5 Bonnabel (18-5), 7 p.m.
No. 13 East Ascension (12-12) at No. 4 Hahnville (19-3), 7 p.m.
No. 14 East St. John (23-7) at No. 3 Zachary (22-6), 6:30 p.m.
No. 15 Walker (18-9) at No. 31 Thibodaux (11-12), 6:30 p.m.
No. 10 Plaquemine (17-9) at No. 7 Washington-Marion (24-5), 6:30 p.m.
No. 16 Jennings (10-7) at No. 1 Madison Prep (20-4), 7 p.m.
No. 2 Wossman (23-2) at No. 18 Lutcher (13-4), 6:30 p.m.
No. 14 East Feliciana (15-5) at No. 3 Many (15-2), 6 p.m.
No. 7 Red River (11-8) at No. 23 St. Helena (16-13), 6 p.m.
No. 2 Port Allen (14-7) at No. 18 Avoyelles (14-12), 6 p.m.
No. 13 French Settlement (22-7) at No. 4 Doyle (23-8), 6:30 p.m. at Doyle Elementary
No. 19 Lincoln Prep (6-12) at No. 3 White Castle (19-7), 6:30 p.m.
No. 12 Holden (16-12) at No. 5 J.S. Clark-Opelousas (19-9), 6 p.m.
No. 10 Curtis (7-12) at No. 7 McKinley (14-5), 6:30 p.m.
No. 12 Lusher Charter (10-8) at No. 5 St. Michael (14-5), 6 p.m.
No. 10 Evangel Christian (17-6) at No. 7 Parkview Baptist (17-12), 6 p.m.
No. 14 Ben Franklin (10-7) at No. 3 Liberty (18-6), 7 p.m.
No. 10 Ascension Catholic (9-9) at No. 7 Opelousas Catholic (15-7), 7 p.m.