There should be no surprises when St. James takes on rival Donaldsonville in the opening round of the Class 3A boys’ basketball playoffs on Friday night in Donaldsonville.
“It’s a blessing and a curse. You are familiar with them but they are familiar with you as well,” St. James coach James Smith said.
As league foes, the teams played twice during the regular season. Donaldsonville won both encounters, defeating the Wildcats 50-45 in Donaldsonville and 61-45 at St. James.
“It will come down to who is ready to play that night,” Smith said of the playoff matchup. “You have to be your best that night, but it’s a little different. It’s a bit more intense when it’s a rival.”
In other playoff action involving River Parish teams on Friday, it will be Hahnville at Lafayette, Lutcher at Breaux Bridge, West St. John and East Iberville, and Destrehan at LaGrange.
St. James won five of its last six regular-season games to garner the No. 26 seed. Donaldsonville is the No. 7 seed.
“It got to the point where every game we played was a playoff game,” Smith said of his team’s play down the stretch of the regular season.
The Tigers, Smith said, play well together as a unit.
“They’ve played as a team all year long. Those guys know what they want to do. They know their order. When you can get that kind of continuity, there is no one guy you can key on. They play a good brand of basketball,” Smith said.
The Wildcats have size up front with 6-foot-5 sophomore center Saivion Jones, 6-foot-5 senior forward Keithon Burham and Chase Geason, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior power forward.
Shamar Smith, the quarterback on the St. James football team, plays wing and off-guard with Tonta Octave being the point guard.
“We are at our best when our centers are rebounding and scoring, our guards and wings run the floor and handle the ball and not turn it over. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance,” said Smith.
A 63-57 loss to H.L. Bourgeois in the regular-season finale put Hahnville on the road for the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Hahnville ended up as the No. 17 seed and will play at Lafayette, the No. 16 seed, on Friday.
“I think it was costly, depending on how you look at it,” Hahnville coach Yussef Jasmine said. “No coach wants to lose a game but I think the draw we got in the playoffs actually is a pretty good one. A 16 and 17, the 17 means you are away but those are two teams that are ranked pretty much right there with each other.
“Looking forward, the second-round game would be home against one of our district schools. You assume the No. 1 seed would advance but in the playoffs, it’s win or go home. Plus, it’s hard to beat a team three times.”
That No. 1 seed is Thibodaux, which defeated Hahnville by scores of 73-55 at Hahnville and 74-72 in Thibodaux. Thibodaux hosts Terrebonne, the No. 32 seed, on Friday.
Lafayette is on a roll, having won 11 of its last 12 games and is led by 6-foot-4 junior Corey Dunning.
“We have to maintain ourselves defensively and be solid on defense and our tempo will give them problems. I don’t think they are as good in transition as it should be against us. Our transition game will be important and just being solid on defense,” Jasmine said of taking on Lafayette.
Leading the Tigers are Claudell Harris, Kaden Pierre and Dylan Lorio.
Lutcher enters play in the Class 4A playoffs as the No. 30 seed and plays at No. 3 Breaux Bridge on Friday.
The Bulldogs sport 13 wins on the season – a 10-game improvement in the win column over a year ago.
“We’ve become much better defensively. We have some leadership,” Lutcher coach J.P. Piper said. “We have some kids that can score the ball. It’s been a fun year watching them grow.
“We would like to be higher than a 30 seed but the first step in building a program is just getting there.”
Top players for Breaux Bridge include 6-foot-2 wing player Deandre Hypolite and 6-foot-6 post player Trevonte Sylvester.
“They are long, bouncy and athletic. They have a lot of quickness. They remind me of Plaquemine. They are a big, strong, physical kids that will present quite a challenge,” said Piper, coming Breaux Bridge to the Bulldogs’ district foe.
Adrian Butler, Mekhi Patterson and Copeland Williams are all double-figure scorers for the Bulldogs.
“We are a guard-oriented team. We don’t have a lot of size and they are good at the guard spot and they have some size. That will present some problems for us. That’s the same issue we faced against Plaquemine. We were unable to consistently rebound and unable to stop them around the basket with their size,” said Piper.
Like St. James, West St. John has some familiarity with it’s first-round Class 1A opponent when the Rams travel to take on East Iberville on Friday.
West St. John, the No. 22 seed, used a 25-point fourth quarter to defeat the Tigers 70-64 in the East Iberville Tournament. East Iberville enters the playoffs as the No. 11 seed.
It will be a different set of characters when the Rams take on East Iberville this time around.
“When we played them the first time, I had my whole team. Right now, I have three guys that are out for the season. We are going in there with a different team but we are looking to come out with the same outcome as the first time,” said West St. John coach Alton Joseph.
West St. John players lost for the season include Trenton Grow, Jahmal Bailey and KaeJean Kindrick.
Going on to carry the load for the Rams has been Jerrod Jessie, Tyray Bartholomew and Shane Lewis.
Also on Friday night, Destrehan opens the Class 5A playoffs at LaGrange. Destrehan is the No. 21 seen and LaGrange is No. 12.
Following a three-game losing streak, Destrehan won it last four regular-season games heading into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, LaGrange won five games in a row before losing its regular-season finale to New Iberia 63-55.