High school basketball requires players to do plenty of sprinting. Winning a district title can be more like taking on a marathon.
East Ascension coach Kenny Almond knows it. And so does Woodlawn’s Elmo Fernandez, which makes Friday’s District 5-5A boys showdown between the two schools intriguing.
Fifth-ranked EAHS (25-3, 7-1) can wrap up the league title with a win. Woodlawn (20-8, 5-3) is tied for second with Dutchtown (20-7, 5-3) and could make things interesting with a win. Game time is set for about 7:30 p.m. at EAHS in Gonzales.
The Woodlawn-EAHS game and the District 4-5A game between two top 10 girls teams, Denham Springs (21-5, 7-1) and Walker (22-7, 6-2), help lead Friday’s schedule in the Baton Rouge area. Walker travels to DSHS for a 6:30 p.m. game.
Friday marks the date of the next-to-last games of the regular season for boys and girls teams, which include 10-game league schedules. Netting another win or two can make the difference when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s announces its playoffs pairings later this month.
“Since we started the second round of district, we’ve been playing pretty well,” Fernandez said. “East Ascension has beat us twice this year, including in the first round of district. Right now it looks like we’ll go into the playoffs as a No. 2 seed. This is a big game. They’re tough to defend, and you have to figure that out in order to beat them.”
Woodlawn has won four straight since losing to East Ascension 59-47 on Jan. 22 at home. East Ascension has won six straight since its 64-52 loss to Dutchtown on Jan. 15.
“It would be nice if we could win this one and have a little breathing room,” Almond said. “Almost every game in this dad gum district has been a close one. On paper, it may say we won by 10 points, but a lot of those games were two- or four- point games until the last minute or two.
“Woodlawn has really played well since the second half of district started, and Chris Williams has a lot to do with that. They didn’t have him for a few games in the first round. They’re not a team that scores a lot of points, but they don’t give up a lot either.”
The game offers contrasts. Woodlawn has no starter taller than 6-foot-2. Williams, a 6-2 junior, leads the way with a 14.0 scoring average. Tyrre Spurlock (6-2) is next at 12.0, while 6-1 Cameron Lazare adds 11.0.
Lazare is the younger brother of ex-LSU standout Darnell Lazare, who played for Almond during his successful tenure at Woodlawn.
East Ascension is led by 6-0 Javaughn Williams, who averages 18.3 points per game. The Spartans’ 6-7 Ja’Cardo Hawkins is next at 16.4 and has been the team’s top scorer in district games.
“The thing that makes East Ascension so tough to guard isn’t just the height,” Fernandez said. “They can all shoot the ball well, and you have to defend everybody.”
Almond said Woodlawn’s balance is also a concern.
“They could have one guy score 25 on Tuesday and then another could drop 25 or 30 on us,” Almond said. “We’ll need to make good decisions on offense and play real hard on defense.
WALKER AT DENHAM SPRINGS: Seventh-ranked Denham Springs can clinch no worse than a tie for the 4-5A title with a win, while No. 10 Walker (22-7, 6-2) is looking to tie things up before the teams close the regular season next week.
“We’ve talked about what an important game this is,” DSHS coach Shelly Laprarie said. “You want to defend your home court. Winning this one and the district title is a big deal for both of us because of the power points you get.”
Adds first-year Walker coach Korey Arnold, “The first time we played in the parish tournament they hit a shot at the end of the game to win. The last time we played we hit the shot at the end of the game and won. I don’t expect anything different this time.”
Denham Springs won 33-30 in the Livingston Parish Tournament on Dec. 8. Walker claimed a 37-36 win on Jan. 22 but has struggled with injuries and been without three starters for much of the past two weeks. Walker lost to Zachary by 11 on Tuesday, which adds to the sense of urgency for the Wildcats, Arnold said.
Mi’ca Lowe (5-8) leads Walker with a 20.0 scoring average. Calertia Curtis (5-9) leads DSHS with a 13.0 average, while Carlisha Kinchen (5-8) adds 13.0
RUNNELS SHREVEPORT BOUND: Ninth-seeded Runnels will become the Baton Rouge area’s first team to play a quarterfinal-round playoff contest.
The Raiders (13-3) play top-seeded Loyola Prep in Shreveport at 3:30 p.m. Friday. The contest will be played at Loyola’s Messmer Stadium.
“We haven’t played them before,” Runnels coach Marvin Smith said of Loyola. “It’s going to be a tough matchup for us because they have more depth than we do.
“Anything is possible. We respect them as a No. 1 seed, but we have some players who we believe can make some big plays for us.”
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