Devan Clark’s last trip to play basketball at White Castle during his senior year at Southern Lab will always be a memorable one.
It had nothing to do with the final score, but rather an experience that left an indelible impression on Clark some 19 years later — one that the second-year Southern Lab coach shared with his team in advance of Friday’s key District 8-1A game at 7 p.m.
“I’m trying to find video of that game,” Clark said. “We went there and couldn’t sit down. People were lined up on the court. They love basketball, and it’s a big deal to a lot of people. As a competitor, when you walk in and see the atmosphere and the love of basketball, you want to be a part of that.”
Such moments are just part of the lore between Southern Lab and White Castle, one that stretches into league play when the Kittens (12-6, 2-0) visit the Bulldogs (10-6, 2-0) in battle for the early district lead.
“We’re excited to play Southern Lab again,” White Castle coach Troy Green said. “There are so many people in the community that embrace this game and are excited about it.”
The two traditional Class 1A powers have plenty of history between themselves.
Southern Lab has won four its Class 1A state titles at the expense of White Castle, defeating the Bulldogs in 1995, 2001, ’03, ’04.
The first of those matchups in ’95 featured Clark, a sophomore guard, and Green, a senior guard, when the Kittens emerged with a 71-44 victory.
“I’ve known Devan most of my life,” Green said. “We went to camps together, and in college, we played against each other when I was at Southeastern and he was at Southern. We’re so familiar with each other it’s unreal.”
Their teams are rounding into shape after both schools’ football teams made deep postseason runs, with Southern Lab winning the Division IV state title.
The Kittens are led by the 12-point average of junior forward Azharen Ernest and 10 points of senior swingman Bladrick Veal.
“We’ve been preparing like this is a huge game, like we do for every game with a little extra motivation,” Clark said. “It’s going to be real interesting.”
White Castle has won its last three games, relying on an inside led by 6-foot-5 power forward Ja’Tyre Carter at 15 points per game and 6-4 center Orthello Batiste (10).
ALBANY (GIRLS) AT DENHAM SPRINGS: Albany and Denham Springs are making final preparations for the start of their respective districts next week with the Yellow Jackets (16-2) hosting the Hornets (15-5) at 6 p.m. Friday
They’re also crossing paths for the second time in a month when the Lady Jackets defeated the Hornets 67-44 in the semifinals of the Livingston Parish tournament.
“They’ve got a little revenge factor coming in Friday,” Denham Springs coach Shelly Laprarie said. “We have to be on top of things and ready to compete.”
Albany coach Stacy Dufour referenced her team’s last game with Denham Springs as a potential turning point. The Hornets have won 10 of their past 11 games, including their last three.
“I feel like we didn’t put our best game forward,” Darouse said. “We didn’t give Denham the game they deserved. I’m hoping we’ll play a little better this time around and give them the game they deserve this time.”
Denham Springs has relied on a more experienced lineup this season, led by senior guard Lexi Morris (15 points) and junior forward Tremeeka Spikes (11).
Sophomore Mahogany Williams’ 15.3 points and 9.1 rebounds is tops for Albany in both categories, but there is a lot of balance in Albany’s scoring with five players averaging between 5.3 to 8.5 points.
“Our goal is to get better each game, and I feel like we’ve done that,” Darouse said.
“There’s nothing like being tested by a top 5A team to know how much you’re improved.”