Simsboro, Zwolle set for Class B title game

By T. Scott Boatright

Simsboro’s and Zwolle’s boys basketball teams are no strangers to Top 28 Marsh Madness appearances and even Class B state championship game showdowns in recent years.

In 2018 top-seed Simsboro won its first state title in 43 years by defeating second-seeded Zwolle 67-50.

The Tigers and Hawks faced off again in the 2019 championship game, with the Tigers winning 59-53 for a second straight state title.

Zwolle lost in the quarterfinals of the 2020 Class B tournament while No. 1 Simsboro advanced to the championship but fell 85-83 in overtime to second-seeded Doyline.

Simsboro and Zwolle were on the same side of the Class B boys basketball bracket last year, but the Hawks fell in second-round action to Stanley, which the Tigers defeated in quarterfinals play en route to a state championship.

And tonight, top-seeded Simsboro and third-seeded Zwolle meet again with a Class B state championship on the line. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Burton Coliseum on the McNeese State University campus in Lake Charles.

That game won’t be the first time the Tigers and Hawks will meet this season. The teams played on Nov. 16 in Simsboro, with the Tigers winning 58-43.

“Both us and Zwolle are completely different teams now,” Simsboro coach Josh Brown said of the difference between now and that November meeting. “We have a lot of respect for their program and their coach, and we know that they are going to be ready to play. They’re going to play hard and try to get after us defensively.

“We’ve seen Zwolle on the big stage before. We know what to expect.”

Simsboro does have one weapon ready that it didn’t have when the Tigers met Zwolle in November — junior workhorse Chilaydrien Newton was out for that contest with an injury but has been on a recent tear heading into tonight’s game.

Brown also hopes the familiarity between the teams might help his Tigers.

“We’ve watched film of the previous match-up and other film we had of regular-season and playoff games,” Brown said. “The one thing we know for sure is we’re going to have to play a lot better (tonight) than we did Monday night (a 70-51 over fourth-ranked Lacassine) to beat them.”

Brown feels his Tigers match up well with the Hawks.

“They have a 6-5 inside guy, and we have a 6-5 guy inside,” Brown said. “They have really strong, athletic guards, and we also have really strong, athletic guards. If we do have an advantage I would say it would be because our guards are a little taller, but other than that I’d say the two teams match up really, really well.”

This will be the fifth straight championship game for Simsboro seniors Jordan Crawford, and Nick Maryland, and Brown is counting on their experience along with fellow seniors  Brandon Williams, Shamarian Brantley and Lee Abney to play a big role against the Hawks.

“With the experience these kids have, Monday night was a business trip,” Brown said. “We’re not taking anything for granted. We’re proud of them for making it back to the Top 28, but clearly that wasn’t our goal. 

“We didn’t play particularly well Monday night. We didn’t shoot very well. But our kids found a way to win. This is going to be the fifth straight championship game for Jordan Crawford and Nick Maryland. They’ve been in the program that long and know what it takes to get there, and they know what it takes to win it.”

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