Exams are over but that doesn’t mean the learning process is taking a Christmas break.
Case in point: two boys basketball coaches — Belaire’s Chauncey Moore and McKinley’s Harold Boudreaux — sound more like science teachers than coaches.
Instead of a laboratory, the Bob Pettit/Coca-Cola/East Baton Rouge Parish tournament that begins Saturday at Southern University’s F.G. Clark Center will be their testing ground.
“The biggest thing we need to work on is our chemistry,” Moore said. “I spend most of the summer teaching. That’s when we go over a lot of the individual skills and fundamentals. Now is the time to put it together.”
The Bengals (9-4) enter the EBR tourney as the fourth seed and play No. 13 Friendship Capitol at 6 p.m. Saturday. Meanwhile, third-seeded McKinley (7-5) faces No. 14 Lee at 7:30 p.m. Those games cap a six-game schedule that opens the four-day tournament.
Top-seeded Scotlandville and No. 2 Madison Prep get first-round byes and won’t play until Sunday. Skeptics might question the importance of the tourney and its early games, especially with two defending state champions leading the field.
“We’ve lost three in a row but the potential is definitely there,” Boudreaux said. “Chemistry is a big issue for us. We’re playing several younger guys. You’ve got that factor. Add in that this is my first year, so you can see there’s a learning curve there.”
While their holiday wish list for chemistry is similar, the two teams are different. Class 4A Belaire is a senior-laden team that features players in new roles. Like McKinley, the Bengals lost their last game to Lutcher in the Walker tourney on Tuesday.
Terrance Johnson leads Belaire with a 13.5 scoring average. The 6-foot-3 Johnson is one of three senior starters who form a solid nucleus for Moore. Eric Matthews (6-3) is at 12.2 points per game. The third senior, 6-8 Robert Lewis, adds 9.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
Though all three are seniors, Lewis is in his second season of high school basketball. Seniors Zachary Besant (6-0) and Ben Percy (5-10) alternate with sophomore Darryl Boyd (5-7) in the other two spots for the Bengals.
“We do need to get better at playing with each other,” Johnson said. “We know the game, and we play all the time. But we need to talk more on the court and not be lax on defense. It’s all about the little things. … The attention to every detail.”
The devil also is in the details for McKinley. The Panthers lost to Northside and Ellender in the Madison Prep tournament last week before dropping a road game to Helen Cox on Monday.
Sophomore Tyrese Radford (6-2) is averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds a game for Boudreaux, who moved to McKinley from 3A Brusly in the offseason. Senior Russell Daniels (14.0 points, four assists) is a 6-1 guard for 5A MHS. Marcus Coleman (6-4) and Andre Lee (6-3) are other starters.
“We need to improve on playing together, especially on offense,” Daniels said. “A lot of that comes back on me. I need to be the best floor general I can be. We’re close to being good. Coach (Boudreaux) brings that old-school toughness, and that’s something we need.”
Neither coach is counting on instant gratification this weekend. But the players have other ideas.
“I think we can shock some people,” Johnson said.
“Pull off an upset or two. … That would be great,” Daniels said.