Higgins headed to Top 28 in Marshall Jackson’s final season as coach _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANDREA MABRY -- Melvin Frazier (35) of Higgins eyes the ball during the game against Cox at Higgins Tuesday night, January 7, 2013.

Marshall Jackson’s 33-year run as head coach at Higgins will come to an end sometimes this week.

It could come as early as Tuesday night.

Or it could be Friday.

“However it ends, I will be satisfied,” said Jackson, who is retiring at season’s end. “They have worked hard, and I’m satisfied with however we go out.”

And he should be.

Not many people expected Higgins (22-11) to be making the trip from Marrero to Lake Charles as one of the last four teams standing in Class 5A.

The Hurricanes are the No. 20 seed, the lowest seeded team in the entire Top 28 this season.

“Everybody doubted it,” senior forward Melvin Frazier said. “But Coach tells us to keep putting in the hard work in the gym. You have to grind. This is his last year, so we are going all out for him.”

Higgins gets its stiffest test yet on Tuesday when it plays top-seed and defending state champion Natchitoches Central in Burton Coliseum at 8 p.m.

The winner advances to Friday’s 8 p.m. championship game to play the Scotlandville-Byrd winner.

“They are a good team, but we think we are a good team as well,” said Jackson. “We know they aren’t going to give us anything.”

For Higgins, it is the first trip to the semifinals since losing to Jesuit in 2001. Higgins’ last trip to the title game was in 1993, when it fell to John Ehret in an all-Marrero final.

This one was perhaps the most unlikely of them all.

It was District 8-5A champion Helen Cox, a No. 2 seed, that most predicted had a good shot at making it to Lake Charles.

“The rankings and things don’t mean anything,” Frazier said. “It just depends on how you play.

Jackson knows that his departure has probably given his team a little boost.

“The kids have stepped up and decided they want to do something special for me,” Jackson said. “I always tell them ‘if you put your heart into it and work hard, you can get there’. They never gave up. They want to get there for me, but I want them to get there for themselves.”

Higgins caught a few breaks along the way to make its first trip to the Top 28 in over a decade.

The Hurricanes opened the playoffs with a first round win over district for Bonnabel. They dodged St. Augustine in the second round after the Purple Knights were upset by Carenco in the first round. After a double-digit win over Carencro, the Canes dodged a bullet in Friday’s quarterfinal against Ouachita Parish. Ouachita missed one of two free throws with no time left in regulation, and Higgins went on to win in double overtime.

“When he made the first one, I was thinking ‘Please let him not make this’ when he shot it. When he shot it, it gave me more energy.”

Higgins went on to win 66-59.

Frazier finished with 20 points. Considered one of the state’s top seniors, Frazier mentioned LSU, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State as his final four schools.

“Melvin has pretty much carried us throughout the season,” Jackson said.

The Hurricanes will likely have to have another big game from Frazier to pull off what would be a huge upset.

Frazier is joined in the lineup by Daivon Sullivan, Nathan Bailey, Montel James and Romalo Ford.

“Everyone keeps talking about them doing it for me, but I want them to get it for themselves and for the school,” Jackson said.