Walker: East Jefferson, Landry-Walker out to prove ’em all wrong

LAKE CHARLES — A school isn’t supposed to win football and basketball championships in the same school year.

And two schools aren’t supposed to come together as one and win a state championship — in any sport — in its first year.

Apparently someone forgot to relay that message to the East Jefferson and Landry-Walker boys basketball teams, who will play in the Class 4A state championship at 8 p.m. Saturday at Burton Coliseum.

What a story this all-New Orleans showdown is.

East Jefferson (30-3) is seeking its second state title in three months after its football team claimed its first state title in December. Point guard Eugene Wells — quarterback of both the football and basketball teams — relishes the opportunity.

“I’m blessed to be in this position twice this year, and I want to go out with two wins,” he said.

He’s one of four East Jefferson basketball players who also played on the football team, joining Ronald Green, Jamal Veazey and Hakim Poche.

The quartet played key roles in leading the school to its first football title three months ago. A victory Saturday would be its first basketball title.

But Landry-Walker (30-4) is looking for its first title as well. Not that it has been waiting a long time.

The school just opened its doors this past fall when L.B. Landry and O. Perry Walker merged. The Charging Buccaneers wasted little time showing that players from two schools could come together.

Seven players on the roster played last season at Walker and five at Landry; the two others are freshmen.

“It wasn’t as tough as people think,” Landry-Walker coach Brian Gibson said. “What people don’t realize is that these kids played AAU ball and playground ball together. At the end of the day, the kids welcomed the merger, and I think their play has shown that.”

The matchup

Saturday’s showdown will be the second meeting of the season between Landry-Walker and East Jefferson. Landry-Walker won 60-51 on its Algiers home court in January.

“It’s funny because, after that game, (Gibson) and I talked and we said we may play again,” East Jefferson coach Ryan Dicharry said. “They got the better of us at their place. They outplayed us in every part of the game that night. Hopefully we will do better Saturday night.”

Landry-Walker won the first one without sophomore guard Lamar Peters, who was battling back spasms. Peters is one-third of the Charging Buccaneers’ dangerous three-headed backcourt, joining Tyree Griffin and Corey Wells. The trio combined for 45 points in Landry-Walker’s semifinal victory over defending state champion St. Thomas More.

East Jefferson is led by Tennessee-Chattanooga signee Shaquille Preston, who scored a team-high 21 points in the Warriors’ semifinal win over Northside.

Dicharry is hoping for a better shooting performance from his team, which shot just 14 of 47 in Thursday’s semifinal.

“We shot it poorly,” he said. “I am hoping that was just first-game jitters. But defense and rebounding has been our staple all year. If we don’t score well or shoot well, we have done well defending and rebounding, and that has helped us get this far.”

Gibson — who led O. Perry Walker to the title game in 2008, when it lost to Greg Monroe-led Helen Cox — expects a battle in his second title game in six years.

“East Jefferson has incredible length, and they are very good players,” Gibson said. “We know each other. This is not going to be a game where you try to fool anybody. It will come down to who is able to impose their will on the other team. They are going to play to their strengths, and we will try to play to ours. We know them, and they know us.”

City of (4A) champions

Sometime late Saturday night, a Class 4A state championship trophy will be headed to New Orleans. That shouldn’t come as a surprise.

4A has been dominated by New Orleans schools this year. Just last Saturday, Salmen knocked off Warren Easton in the 4A girls basketball title game. And back in December, East Jefferson beat Karr in the 4A football title game.

Now EJ has to try to go through another Westbank school to claim a title.

“It’s exciting for the city,” Dicharry said. “It shows you how good athletics are in New Orleans. Just to have your school and another school in the same city have a chance to win it is pretty special.”

Gibson agreed.

“I am glad we both have an opportunity to bring this championship back to the Metro,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for (Dicharry) and what he has done over there. I think both programs are really great programs. But I think I am pulling for us a little more Saturday night.”