It’s a given, often overlooked, fact about sporting events that sometimes a win is more than just a win.
Sometimes a win is a statement for a school – an even broader statement for a community that doesn’t always shine in the brightest of lights. Woodlawn’s 55-52 victory over a gallant Fair Park team in the LHSAA 4A quarterfinals Friday night, was just that kind of triumph.
“I’m just so happy for these kids who have fought through the situation here and continued to believe in me and what we were trying to do,” Woodlawn coach Kenny Sykes said. “It’s all about Cedar Grove and Hollywood and getting that positive feeling back for this community – this city.”
Sure, it wasn’t the state championship, but it felt like it was as the Knights celebrated a long-awaited trip to March Madness (formerly Top 28) in Lake Charles next week.
Former Shreveport Police Chief Willie Shaw was among those on hand helping the Knights strut their stuff in the postgame atmosphere as the standing-room-only crowd made its way to the exits. The stately Shaw was a member of the 1980 Woodlawn team that won a title. Now retired from policing the city, Shaw helps Sykes with his team as he can.
“To see this gym filled like this supporting these kids is fantastic,” Shaw said. “A game like this – a crowd like this is good for the entire city. These kids will remember this for the rest of their lives. I still re-live what it was like to win a state title to this day.”
The win and advancement to the state tournament, which will include 48, rather than 28 teams, next week continues an athletic resurgence for Woodlawn, which won the District 1-4A football title a few months ago with Times All-City Coach of the Year Jerwin Wilson at the helm. Four players off that team signed college scholarships.
“But there’s no question this was a bigger deal,” said Wilson, the Woodlawn athletic director. “We are getting ready to play for a state championship.”
Across the way and in a weight room at the back of the Woodlawn gym, the Indians were being consoled by coach Eddie Hamilton and his staff. The Fair Park seniors had their chances to win and move on in a hostile environment where they had already lost this season. The loss meant not only the end of the 2017 season, it meant the end of Fair Park basketball as we know it. The school will be combined with BTW next season.
As the nine players filed out of the weight room with tears being covered up by shirts, towels and whatever they could find, Hamilton exited at a loss for words.
“Coach Sykes did a great job getting his guys prepared. They played to their strengths,” Hamilton said. “Our guys were fighters. They just didn’t have enough at the end.”
The first half saw seven lead changes, although no ties, and the Indians led 29-26 at the break. The Knights made a 4-0 run to end the third quarter to go in front by 4 and that momentum carried into the final frame when T’Mike Moton opened with 4-point play to give the Knights a 44-36 lead. Woodlawn led 48-39 and seemed poised to run away with the game after successive buckets by Telvin Thomas (20 points) midway through the fourth. But Fair Park’s Letreavin Black and Javis Perot combined to score 9 unanswered point to tie the game at 48 with 1:40 to play.
But a 3-pointer by Larry Moton from the right wing with just over a minute remaining gave the Knights a lead they wouldn’t lose. A 3-pointer by Fair Park at the buzzer slid off to the left.
“Fair Park did a great job. This was back and forth all night,” Shaw said. “Unfortunately, someone had to lose.”
But it wasn’t the community or the fans who witnessed a life-altering sporting event.