LAKE CHARLES — Southern Lab came in with one of Louisiana’s richest high school basketball traditions, including 15 state titles.
But one thing quickly became apparent — this was Arcadia High’s day.
The fourth-seeded Hornets exorcised demons of tourneys past with a 55-48 victory over Southern Lab in the Class 1A title game that opened Saturday’s action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 tournament.
“This is the first one, so it’s very special,” Arcadia coach Marcus Jackson said. “These guys fought so hard, going back to their freshmen year to get this. The town of Arcadia is shut down right now.”
Arcadia (26-5) picked up right where it left off in Thursday night’s upset win over top-seeded Lafayette Christian. The senior-laden Hornets were poised and executed their game plan to near perfection once again at Burton Coliseum.
The win gave Arcadia its first state title in its 11th Top 28 appearance. It follows back-to-back semifinal appearances and a runner-up finish to Country Day in 2013.
Southern Lab, making its first tourney appearance since 2012, battled back from a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit but could get no closer than five.
“I thought we were real relaxed on defense like they were supposed to give us something,” Southern Lab coach Devan Clark said. “I didn’t like my team’s energy and the way we did not compete in the first half. We dug ourselves a hole.”
Title-game MVP Travious Fielding, Danquarian Fields and Anthony Boston had plenty to do with it. After scouting the Kittens, Jackson said AHS could exploit Southern Lab’s zone with shots on the wing and in the corner.
Jackson had the Hornets practice those shots in a morning shoot around and it translated to the game. Fielding made all four of his 3-point shots. Boston and Fields each made one 3-pointer to help AHS finish 6-for-15 behind the arc. Fielding had a game-high 19 points and four assists. Fields had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Boston scored 14 points.
The 3-pointers had a two-fold effect. The points padded the Hornets lead and also prevented Southern Lab from boosting the tempo to get out in transition. No player finished in double figures for third-seeded Southern Lab (26-8). Bladrick Veal, who had two 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds, led the Kittens with nine points. Dexter Dennis had eight.
“They didn’t looked concerned with anything we tried to do with them,” Clark said of Arcadia. “That’s the difference between a sophomore and a senior out there.”
Arcadia built a 9-4 first-quarter lead. The Kittens closed to within three, at 14-11, on a putback by Deion Rainey to close the first quarter.
The Hornets shifted into another gear in the second quarter. Boston, Fielding and Fields each hit a 3-pointer to help AHS build a 32-17 halftime lead. Each time the Kittens tried to chip away at the lead before the final seconds, Arcadia had an answer.
Jackson admitted that losing a 20-point lead the title to Country Day in 2013 was on his mind in the second half. But Arcadia never relented.
“I knew I’d never have another shot to get a state championship for Arcadia,” said Fielding, who missed the 2015 playoffs with a knee injury.
Veal noted, “They made a lot of 3s, and we had to catch up.”
Clark, who played on Southern Lab teams that beat Arcadia to win titles in 1996-97, noted the silver lining for his team.
“I think we had a pretty good run. ... A run that was unexpected by people outside our locker room,” Clark said. “We want to make this a mainstay again for our program.”