LAKE CHARLES – To nobody’s surprise, it’s Simsboro vs. Anacoco in tonight’s LHSAA Class B state boys basketball championship game.
The second-seeded Tigers (24-2), who will play in their fourth straight state final trying to win their third Class B crown in four seasons, have been to Burton Coliseum for the state Final Four each of the last six years. They don’t get mail there, but they are almost as much a staple of the Top 28 experience as visits by savvy visitors to Darrell’s Poboys just off the I-210 loop.
The No. 1 Indians (34-2) have been tops in the Class B power rankings all year, riding the abundant talent of Northwestern State signee Shaun Riley, who moved south from St. Louis and elevated Anacoco among the state’s elite teams in any class.
At 7:30 this evening, Simsboro puts its fast five (and then some) against a more deliberate squad that hasn’t had to battle in the fourth quarter for weeks now. The state championship game can be seen, for a fee, on NFHSNetwork.com.
Anacoco cracked fifth-seeded J.S. Clark 81-56 Tuesday night right after The Boro’s 67-61 victory over a Hathaway team that made a frantic rally from way down in the final four minutes, but never had the ball with a chance to tie.
Tigers coach Josh Brown said he put the brakes on his team, instead of pumping the gas, and that contributed to the shaky finish in the semis.
“Some of that’s on me as a coach with a 19-point lead. We went away from who we are and got out of our element,” he said. “Hopefully we all learned from mistakes we made. Now it’s experience.”
Experience is definitely on Simsboro’s side. The Tigers are a two-point overtime loss in last year’s final from owning three straight state crowns. Senior Braxton Taylor has been on all six Simsboro teams (since he was a seventh grader) that have been to Burton Coliseum in recent years.
Anacoco has just arrived. The Boro’s been here for a while.
“They’re good, well-coached, very disciplined, and have a 6-6 Division I signee in the middle. They beat West Monroe by double figures (53-42, Jan. 2 at WMHS), that’s how good they can be,” said Brown.
“I’m hearing, ‘Coach, y’all have your hands full with Anacoco.’ Well, Anacoco has its hands full with Simsboro, too. We respect them, but we do not fear them.”
The Tigers are among the nation’s highest scoring high school teams. They haven’t encountered many squads that are good enough to invoke a slower tempo, but the parallel between Tuesday’s foe and tonight’s opponent is obvious, and beneficial to The Boro.
“Hathaway’s style of play is very similar to Anacoco’s,” said Brown. “That helps us, having just played a good team that doesn’t want to play at our pace. We want to play 94 feet up and down the court.”
RUSTON BASEBALL: Homestanding Byrd plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth Thursday night, the game-winner on a two-out double as the Yellow Jackets rallied past Ruston 5-4. Catcher Joshua Miller had a pair of hits, including a double, and Cade Patterson’s fifth inning double scored two and helped the visitors to a 4-3 edge.
The Bearcats (6-4) play three more times in Shreveport-Bossier over the next two days, facing Captain Shreve today at 4, Airline at 6:30 and Haughton Saturday at noon. They are home again Tuesday evening against one of the state’s top teams, Tioga, at the Ruston Sports Complex.
Photo: courtesy Rick Hickman, Lake Charles American Press