Marsh Madness Preview: Ruston and Ponchatoula face off in semis

By Kyle Roberts

Twenty-five years ago.

That’s how long it’s been since the Ruston Bearcats have made an appearance in “Marsh Madness” — the Louisiana high school basketball equivalent of the “Final Four.”

Now, the 2022-23 Bearcat team, ranked No. 2 overall, has the chance to write its own history starting tonight against the No. 3 Ponchatoula Green Wave with a win-or-go-home game setup in the semifinals.

And heading into tonight’s ballgame, Ruston head coach Ryan Bond had nothing but positive things to say about his squad and their readiness for the weekend.

“Without a doubt, they believe,” Bond said. “I believe in them. The other coaches believe in them. And they want it. Not only for themselves, but for each other. They’re very close; if a kid has a bad play, they’re picking each other up. That’s what’s great to see.”

After two consecutive home court blowups in the second round and the quarter finals, Ruston will face a Ponchatoula team that has beaten West Monroe (83-46) and Sulphur (62-48) to advance to the semifinals. The Green Wave won District 6-5A with an unblemished record.

“It starts with their inside kid; he’s around 6’8″ or 6’9″,” Bond said of Ponchatoula junior forward Allen Graves. “He can shoot the ball a little bit from the perimeter. He’s an excellent free throw shooter, and he’s averaging around 20 points and 11 rebounds a game.

“They do play a lot of kids; they have a point guard who’s close to the type of athlete our (sophomore guard) Aiden Anding is. He can get downhill and get to the basket.”

While Ruston does not have the height advantage in the paint, Bond still see this is a good matchup for his Bearcats, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

“I think we matchup well in all areas,” Bond said. “You know, (junior forward) Zhy Scott may not be 6’9″, but he’s very physical. I talked to some coaches who played Ponchatoula this year and they asked me ‘Where are you going to double them from?’ And I told them that we don’t have to double because our guys can handle things one-on-one.”

Ruston and Ponchtoula will tipoff at 6:15 p.m. tonight at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles, La.

The game can be heard on KPCH 99.3 FM and KRLQ 102.3.