It will be a battle of River Parish teams versus central Louisiana teams in the quarterfinals of the boys’ state basketball playoffs on Friday night.
Riverside Academy will host Holy Savior Menard of Alexandria at 6 p.m. on Friday in Reserve. Meanwhile, St. James will play in Alexandria at 7 p.m. against Peabody.
Often, when teams from the southern region play squads from the northern part of the state in high school football, coaches will mention the different styles of play. For the most part, that holds true for basketball as well, according to Riverside coach Timmy Byrd.
“There are always exceptions, but across the board, the defenses are a little bit more aggressive and physical in the southern part of the state,” Byrd said.
Ironically, one of those exceptions is St. James’ opponent.
“Peabody is traditionally known for a really good defense, so that’s one of the exceptions. Typically, the teams up there want to play fast and have some skill and they can shoot. They can play really good offense, but sometimes, their defense is not the greatest, so you have high-scoring games,” said Byrd.
The Rebels (16-16) have rebounded from a poor start to reach the Division III quarterfinals after a 101-42 win over The Church Academy in Riverside’s playoff opener.
“I feel good about my team,” Byrd said. “I feel good about their attitude. Their confidence level is as high as it’s been all season. Gage Larvadain is now about 90 percent healthy so he’s kind of back flying around. He makes us a totally different team.
“Our bench has played well all year. We couldn’t ask for anything more as far as our team going into the playoffs. We like the way they are playing right.”
Menard (19-12) advanced with an equally dominating 75-48 thrashing of Northlake Christian. Of the Eagles’ 12 losses, three have come against Leesville, which is the No. 2 seed in the Class 4A bracket.
The Eagles, the No. 5 seed, boast 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore center Jourdain Dishmond, who can be a difference maker at both ends of the court.
“A lot of Catholic schools run motion, but they don’t. They kind of play wide-open. They kind of play free. They shoot the ball kind of quick. The reason they do that is because the big kid can clean up a lot of mistakes for them. A lot of time he will get the misses and up it back,” Byrd explained.
The fourth-seeded Rebels, said Byrd, have a specific plan to handle Dishmond.
“We will play him like we play most kids that size. We will front him and then we will have weakside help. We will play him front and back and when he touches it, we will double-team him and not let play in space. If you let him play in space, he will foul everybody out,” Byrd said.
Another top player for Menard is junior Jude Hopewell.
“He might be their best player. He can really shoot it,” said Byrd.
A lower-scoring affair, Byrd said, would be better for his team in Friday’s encounter.
“If we can hold this team in the 40s, we are going to win. If we let them score 75-80 points, then we could be in trouble,” the Riverside coach predicted.
Meanwhile, St. James, the No. 26 seed in Class 3A, reached the quarterfinals with wins of 51-54 over rival Donaldsonville, the No. 7 seed and Glen Oaks 44-36. The Panthers were a No. 10 seed.
The Warhorses (31-4) have topped 100 points in six of their wins this season and are riding a 13-game winning streak.
“You don’t score that many points walking it up the floor. They are a talented team. Like I tell the kids, there are no more weak sisters,” St. James coach James Smith said.
The Warhorses like to play man-to-man defense, according to Smith.
“They are man-to-man all over the floor. They like to get the ball up in transition,” the St. James coach explained.
Peabody boasts quite a bit of size with four players listed on the roster as being 6-foot-4 or taller.
“Looks like we are going into the land of the giants,” said Smith.
The Wildcats can counter with size of their own with Savion Jones and Keith Burham, both 6-foot-5, and 6-foot-4 Chase Geason.
St. James has reached the quarterfinals despite a 15-19 mark. The Wildcats won five of their last six regular-season games to inch up to the No. 26 seed entering the postseason.
“Our kids have started to jell. I tell them we got here just being what we are. You have to dance with the one that brought you to the party. This is what we are bringing,” Smith said.