By T. Scott Boatright
The new-look Choudrant Aggies boys basketball team is surging as of late with five straight wins capped off by Tuesday night’s 75-55 win at West Ouachita.
It’s not the fact that the Aggies have marched out to an 18-4 that’s most surprising. While Choudrant lost key players off of last year’s squad, Aggies coach Ryan Smith knew he had some returning talent to build on.
But he probably didn’t realize how much building on themselves that returning talent could do, especially when it comes to junior post player Mike Jones.
At 6-1 and somewhere getting closer to 200 pounds every day, Jones has beefed up his inside play and has played a big role in the Aggies’ recent success, leading Choudrant with a 29-point effort in the team’s most recent win at West Ouachita.
That came a week after Jones led the Aggies with 27 points in a home win over Calvin.
“He’s playing really well right now,” Smith said about Jones. “He put in a lot of time this past off-season and even the year before that, working with our assistant coach, Dennis Hunt, and he’s put in countless hours on footwork and fakes and different types of finishes.
“All of that is really paying off. When you combine his strength with how hard he’s worked in the weight room along with his footwork and his touch, I’m not sure we’ve had an inside post presence like that in my tenure here. When you know every second or third trip down the floor you can work the ball inside to him and he can score or earn a trip to the foul line. That’s a luxury we’re really not used to around here.”
Smith said Choudrant’s guards are learning more and more to go to the big man in the middle.
“His teammates are unselfish and they see that when he’s got it going and is confident, they’re going to continue to feed him the ball,” Smith said.
But it’s the inside-the-paint play of Jones and junior Lawson Stevens, who added 14 points in Choudrant’s win over Class 5A West Ouachita, that have given the Aggies the new-look they’re showcasing at mid-season.
“Lawson is our other inside/out presence and they do such a good job of passing the ball to each other,” Smith said. “Against West Ouachita, most of the scoring from both were off passes from the other,” Smith said. “To have that inside dynamic duo play along with the solid guard play we have will helpfully hope us stay balanced as we go into the final stretch.”
The Aggies led the Chiefs throughout the win at West Ouachita, building a 24-13 advantage at the end of the opening stanza to a 38-22 lead at intermission.
Choudrant then outscored the Chiefs 17-12 in the third quarter and 22-21 in the fourth to seal the win.
Lachlan Thompson added 15 points in the Aggies’ win Tucker Batterton chipped in with eight, Tredon Cage hitting for five and Eli Callender scoring three for CHS, which faces a pair of challenges in upcoming days at Gibsland-Coleman (13-4) on Friday and then Doyline (14-2) on Monday.
“We’re looking forward to those games,” Smith said. “We faced Gibsland-Coleman earlier this season (the Bulldogs defeated the Aggies 64-49 on Nov. 5) and had to settle for a lot of jump shots and that kind of thing.
“But at this point we feel we’re playing much better now. We’re a lot more complete. That’s a very tough place to play.”
Then the Aggies will rest up over the weekend before facing another powerhouse in Doyline.
“That’s quite the schedule for sure,” Smith said. “But if there’s any group that can get ready to face all that I know our guys are after the way they handled a long stretch of away games in December. Hopefully those tough games have prepared us for what we’re going to face later this week into the start of next week.”
Choudrant 62, Calvin 55 (BOYS)
The Aggies kept their win streak alive heading into 2023 as they closed out 2022 with a big home win over Calvin on Dec. 27.
Thompson added 12 points to Jones’ leading-scoring effort for the Aggies, who also received nine points from Stevens, six from Tucker Batterton, and four each from Callender and Cage.
Calvin led 13-12 at the end of the first quarter before Choudrant battled back for a 23-21 halftime advantage.
The Aggies outscored the Cougars 22-13 in the third quarter, enough to hold on for the win in the fourth quarter to earn a second win of the season over Calvin, which fell at home 60-51 to Choudrant on Nov. 14.