LAKE CHARLES — If we’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s this: the ability to adjust is vital.
When it mattered most in the world of LHSAA Class B boys basketball Friday night, Simsboro adjusted.
Actually, The Boro put into play the adjustment coach Josh Brown and his team had plotted for weeks, respecting their state final opponent, Anacoco.
These Tigers changed their stripes.
And won, 55-53, capturing the school’s third state championship in four seasons, with only a two-point overtime loss in last year’s title game denying a four-peat in their sixth straight Top 28 appearance.
Nick Maryland’s 18-foot jumper, in transition, with three seconds left in a tie game, was exactly the kind of basket Simsboro scored routinely throughout its 25-2 season.
No hesitation. Pedal to the metal hoops. See it, shoot it. Get the ball upcourt fast, before the defense can set up. That’s what the Tigers did after Anacoco hit a jumper with 12 seconds left to knot it at 53.
In quintessential Simsboro style: no time out, because the right moves are ingrained not only from months of practice this season, but years of playing ball The Boro Way. Inbounding quickly in front of the Indians’ bench, the Tigers immediately passed across to Maryland on the left sideline. The junior, who had scored for the first time all night when he drained a 3-pointer for a 53-51 lead with 20 seconds to go, took five dribbles down the floor, pulled up on the left wing, and BINGO!
“We had five good shooters on the floor. We knew we were going to get an open look,” said Brown. “I was confident in any of them, and the right one got it.”
Anacoco (34-3), the No. 1 seed with a 12-point win over Class 5A power West Monroe on its impressive resume, also didn’t call time. Much better suited to a slower pace, the Indians couldn’t get upcourt fast enough for a decent look, with Simsboro’s defense allowing just a two-handed running heave glancing way off the mark as the final buzzer sounded.
The defense was good on that play because that’s typically how the Tigers defend — pressure defense, over all 94 feet of the court, creating turnovers and easy scoring opportunities, or at least speeding up uncomfortable opponents into awkward shots.
But for nearly the entire game Friday night, that was NOT Simsboro’s defensive strategy. Anacoco featured 6-6 Northwestern State signee Shaun Riley, whose all-around dominant performance in a semifinal win over J.S. Clark illustrated why the Tigers planned to limit their fullcourt press, instead packing in two defenders around Riley to limit how often he got the ball.
It was extremely effective. Riley scored 16 less than his 34-point showcase in the semis. Equally beneficial, Anacoco never got untracked offensively.
“We figured if anybody in Class B could beat them, it was us,” said Brown. “We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. We (ordinarily) go 94 feet up and down the floor, man to man pressure defense, so a lot of people probably thought we were crazy. We thought it was the best chance we had to win.”
The tempo wasn’t the Tigers’ style. But winning the state championship most certainly was.
“That’s a goal we have every year, to make it (to the Top 28, and win),” said Brown. “I don’t know if it’s fair to put that expectation (of winning state) on these kids, but give them credit, they’ve gotten it done pretty well the last six years. Win or lose tonight, I’d still be just as proud of them.”
But the lifetime memories created last week, especially Friday night, will be much sweeter this way.
In a fitting touch, the Tiger who has been part of the last six teams to reach Marsh Madness, senior Braxton Taylor, earned the state title contest’s Most Outstanding Player honor by scoring 18 points, including 4 of 6 aim on 3-pointers. Classmate Jamarian Cato also scored 18 and was one of three Tigers (joined by junior Jordan Crawford and Maryland) with seven rebounds. Sophomore Chilaydrian Newton notched 12 points. Maryland led Simsboro with six assists.
Every Tiger who hit the floor made a difference.
“This was a game where every play was a big play,” said Brown. “It was more than one possession at the end.”
It was 32 minutes of off-brand ‘Boro basketball, slower than preferred, but with the desired outcome.
The most on-brand trait the Tigers exhibit is simple. Just win, baby. In 2021, Simsboro reigns supreme in Class B, once again.
Photo: Team celebration courtesy Chris Demirdjian, KTVE-TV
Winning shot video: courtesy LaMar Gafford, Alexandria Town Talk
Other photos by Kirk Meche, Lake Charles American Press