Rivalries between friends make parish special

Mike Krzyzewski, who has coached the Duke University men’s basketball team to five NCAA championships and 12 Final Fours, once said “Great rivalries don’t have to be built on hatred. They’re built on respect — a respect for excellence.”

That was unmistakably displayed in Lincoln Parish Monday evening as the Ruston High School Lady Bearcats played host to the Cedar Creek Lady Cougars in a showdown between two of the hottest prep teams in Louisiana right now.

 It was a great game — a fun one — in which the Class 5A Lady Bearcats slowly but surely overpowered the 1A Lady Cougars. But the win didn’t come easily. Cedar Creek’s Sarah Adams scored on a lay-up 24 seconds into the contest to build an early 2-0 lead.

Ruston didn’t take its first lead of the game until there was only 2:15 left in the first quarter when Alexis Foster sank a 3-pointer through nothing but net.

The Lady Bearcats led only 9-2 at the end of the opening stanza before getting hot to open the second quarter with three consecutive 3-pointers from Mariah Hintze.

But it didn’t matter by then. The fuse had already been lit and the crowd had already ignited and exploded into excitement.

Truth be told, the excitement started long before the opening tip. A line of fans hundreds of people long stood outside the RHS Main Gym only minutes before the game started, waiting patiently to finally reach the box office and get tickets to enter the facility.

And what they got was a show of monumental proportions. Yes, the Lady Bearcats ended up roaring to a 56-30 win over the Lady Cougars. But the crowd’s intensity remained from start to finish, and then even afterwards.

Watching the student bodies from both schools next to each, cheering on their teams (and sometimes their opponents, too) was as much fun and exciting as watching the game itself. And as Krzyzewski said, rivalries don’t have to involve hatred. And this rivalry game certainly didn’t. It was simply filled with amazing moments both on the court and off.

There’s a reason Lady Techsters basketball coach Brooke Stoher was on hand to watch the contest. Cedar Creek’s Adams proved that while she might play for a small school, she can more than hang with the big girls and scored 27 of her team’s total 30 points in the process. Adams can take it to the basket or stop and pop from anywhere on the court, short or long, which is why she’s earned the attention of college coaches like Stoher. 

But it wasn’t only Adams showcasing almost freakish ability at times.

Maybe the most amazing play of the night came on a missed shot by Ruston Kiona McAllister. The 6-0 senior made a move driving toward the basketball and then did her best Michael Jordan impression, seemingly walking on air around a Cedar Creek defender before landing on her feet standing by herself under the goal.

With a look of shock she tried a quick lay-up with a little too much force as it bounced off the backboard back toward the court. But that didn’t stop fans from teams erupting with cheers, laughter and applause while the players from both teams giggled with excitement over what they had just seen.

It was simply that kind of game — a game Lincoln Parish needed. The kind of game we’ve seen before, but not nearly enough. A game where parents of players could be found hugging and reminiscing with opposing players afterwards.

Remember the Grambling State at LA Tech football game played in September of 2019 as fans from both schools packed Joe Aillet Stadium despite the blistering and truly dangerous heat they had to endure? That game had much the same type of excitement and camaraderie shown by the Ruston High and Cedar Creek teams and fans Monday night. That LA Tech-GSU football game was recorded as a 20-14 for the Bulldogs. But the real winners were the fans in attendance.

Over the years we’ve been fortunate here in Lincoln Parish to watch the Ruston and Simsboro boys basketball teams face off in a showdown between a big school and small school powerhouse, with the big winners being the fans watching the action.

We see it yearly in the Lincoln Parish rivalry between Simsboro and Choudrant, especially in boys basketball. The Tigers and Aggies still have District 1-B showdowns coming up in Simsboro on Friday and in Choudrant on Feb. 8. And with Simsboro ranked No 1 in the state and Choudrant No. 7 according to the latest GeauxPreps.com power ratings, those games will be worthy of Krzyzewski’s quote.

Our local rivalries are built on respect — a respect for excellence, indeed.

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