NEW ORLEANS — Hard to believe, but it’s been 20 years since Newman won the last of its 10 boys state basketball championships.
But if the power rankings are to be believed, this is the year that that two-decade drought ends. The Greenies enter the Class 2A playoffs as the No. 1 seed and will host Kinder at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“When you’ve got all of those banners hanging in the gym, it’s pretty hard to ignore,” said Newman coach Kemper Todd, a member of the 1978 title team. “And I like to bring in players from the past teams to talk to the kids about what it takes to be a champion. I want them to enjoy being the top seed, too, because it represents a lot of hard work. And is also means we might be at home for all three of our games.”
The LHSAA announced pairings for all 14 boys and girls classes on Thursday.
Newman was the only No. 1 boys seed from the New Orleans area. Warren Easton in Class 4A and West St. John in 1A are No. 1 girls seeds.
The Newman boys (27-2) enter the playoffs on a 16-game winning streak. The Greenies have beaten defending 2A champion and this season’s No. 6 seed John Curtis three times and split with Brother Martin, the highest local Class 5A seed at No. 5.
“We felt like we were capable of being pretty good, so we put together a good schedule,” Todd said. “You only get better by playing good teams.”
The Greenies are led by 6-5 senior Duke Douglas at 21.2 points-per-game. Three other starters are seniors — Matt Winsberg, Kyle Lewis and Kendall Lewis, along with junior Justin Harrell.
The Easton girls (29-2), who play Washington-Marion (12-15) in the first round, also enter the playoffs on a 16-game win streak, the latest being a commanding 57-43 victory against sixth-seeded Salmen, last year’s 4A runner-up.
“I wanted my girls to get some playoff atmosphere,” said Easton coach Darius Mimms, whose team reached the quarterfinals last year before losing to eventual champion St. Thomas More. “Being the No. 1 seed is a good accomplishment, but they’ve have been waiting for the bracket and wondering who they’re going to play in the quarterfinals and stuff like that.
“I’m like, ‘Girls, if we’re supposed to be a state championship team, we can’t worry about who we’re playing against. It’s important that they stay grounded and humble.”
Brother Martin (23-6), which hosts Barbe (15-13) on Tuesday has lost four of its past seven games.
But Crusaders coach Bill Gallagher said he isn’t that concerned.
“I know people are saying that we’re limping into the playoffs,” he said, “But this is a pretty battle-tested bunch, not just from this year but from the playoffs since they’ve been here. They’re used to pressure situations.”
That includes last season when Brother Martin lost to Scotlandville in the semifinals. This year, the Crusaders find themselves in the opposite bracket from the second-seeded Hornets.
“It doesn’t matter,” Gallagher said. “They’re all tough from here on in.”
As was the case last year, the first three rounds of playoffs will be played on home sites, with the semifinals set for Hammond, Lake Charles and Bossier City. All championships will be played at Louisiana-Monroe on March 6-9.