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Posted On: 01/5/19 1:12 PM
Today is championship Saturday in the last remaining tournaments around the state. While the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans has seen participation from top prep programs from this state and others, north Louisiana tournaments has seen quality competition with a more regional influence. In the Don Redden Classic & the Bossier Invitational, today's contest will see top schools via for one last tournament crown. We will take a look at specific story lines from each and predict who will walk away with each crown.
Simsboro looking for a quality win
The defending state champions from Class B entered the Don Redden Classic as the #2 rated team in their class. While they are still #2, a statement win against a team from a higher classification will go a long way. #3 Weston is right on their tail and may overtake them in the rankings if they sustain another loss. Simsboro was overmatched by Carroll and out dueled by Neville. Now, they have a third chance against West Monroe. West Monroe does not have much height so this match up may be a little more to the Tigers liking. The guard play in this game will be essential. Brandon Jackson (6'0") is the go-to-guy for the Rebels while Simsboro depends on junior guards Jakemin Abney (6'3") and Kalep Crane (6'0") for most of their offense. West Monroe needs a win also as they sit at #32 in the latest 5A ranking.
Loyola trying to make a statement
The Flyers entered into the Bossier Invitational playing well. They are currently #2 in Division II. If they remain in that lofty perch, they more than likely will not have to leave the confines of home during the playoffs. That is why a statement win against a team like Natchitoches Central would be essential. If they are to get that win, they need senior sharpshooter Deven Melancon (6'3") to have a game like he did against Deridder where he scores at a high volume. More than likely he will be closely guarded by senior guard Calvin "CJ" Carpenter (6'3"). Loyola junior point Anthony "AJ" Taylor (5'9") will have to manage the Chiefs aggressive man-to-man defense. If they can hold their own, Loyola may come out with the victory.
Neville needs a win
When Thursday's latest rankings came out, Neville was sitting at #33. A win versus Simsboro has them in the Don Redden consolation final today against Franklin Parish. If they want to move up from their current position, a win today would be imperative. Last game they got production from seniors Tavis Butler (6'2") and Henry Steele (6'6"). They will need the same today and going forward to close out the season. Steele can almost get his offense at anytime. Against Franklin Parish, he will need to do that and make the offense easier for his teammates. Momentum from a consolation win should propel them to better things as district play begins.
Is Red River an elite team?
Red River has had some statement wins this season. They have beaten the likes of Walker, Woodlawn, and Huntington during tournament play on top of their Bossier Invitational semifinal win against Natchitoches Central. While they are 18-2 and ranked #2 in class 2A, they are not thought of in the likes of Madison Prep, Rayville, or today's opponent Bossier. A win today, on the Bearkats home gym, would go a long way in changing that perception. The dynamic duo of sophomore E'maryeon McDonald (6'1") and senior Jessie Davis (6'7") have been the main cogs in the Bulldogs offensive production. They have also been getting plenty of help from everyone else on the team. Beating Bossier, at Bossier, is a tall task. If this trick can be turned, the Bulldogs will have a signature win that may catapult them to a state title.
Ouachita needs a big performance
Ouachita will be playing a familiar foe in the Don Redden final. They have played Rayville twice this year and have not come within 13 points of a victory. This third meeting, however, will be in the warm confines of home. Ouachita is tough to beat at the "Madhouse". Even with their home court advantage, they do have a home loss to one of the best teams in the state in Bossier. Ouahita will need their senior guards to lead on both ends of the floor. Paul King (5'10") and R.J. Hill (6'2") will need to play stellar man-to-man defense and score in bunches to change the fortunes of the Lions in this rubber match. Throw in Myron Washington (6'8") senior locking down the middle and Ouachita can pull off the victory. It will help them improve their ranking as well before district play begins.
Elite teams with something to prove
Rayville and Bossier each won the respective tournament finals that they are playing in today during the 2017-2018 season. To repeat today, they will need to flex their muscles against respected foes. Bossier Invitational finalist Red River has not played Bossier this season and presents a definite challenge. Ouachita will challenge the Hornets for the second tournament title within the past two weeks. Rayville's Mylik Wilson (ULL signee) has been on a tear for the Hornets while Bossier has gotten production from everyone else outside of Jacoby Decker (5'9", 2019). In both instances, this has made these elite teams even more deadly. The key for both is the defensive end. If both of these top teams lock in on that end, these finals will have the same results as last season. Look for big time performances today by the seniors on these veteran squads.
The Don Redden final will be played at 6:30 while the Bossier Invitational final will be at 8. These games might not have the billing of the Sugar Bowl Classic but they are just as big. Look for these tournament games to give the winner momentum as they head into the rest of district play. One thing is for certain, the gyms will be filled in both.