The Bossier Bearkats are not strangers to the bright lights and big stage of the LHSAA state semifinals.
Bossier, the No. 1 seed in Class 3A, is back and attempting to advance to a fifth straight state championship game.
But this year’s semifinal comes with a new twist — the Bearkats (30-3) get to play at home.
“It’s nice to play at home, and I think it’s a good thing for the LHSAA to rotate locations each year,” said Bossier coach Jeremiah Williams, whose team will take on No. 4 Carroll at 6:15 p.m. today at the CenturyLink Center in Bossier City. “Carroll is physical and aggressive, typical Monroe style basketball. We are just going to have to handle their pressure.”
Last year, the Bearkats played their semifinal in Monroe, beating Madison. The previous three years, Bossier had to travel to Lafayette.
While playing at home will be nice, senior Devonte Hall said he and his teammates don’t care where they play, just so they win.
“Really, the away crowd or home crowd don’t faze us,” Hall said. “We know Carroll is going to play hard. As long as we are prepared and disciplined, we should be all right.”
Bossier isn’t just playing in its home city today. The Bearkats are also at home in the CenturyLink Center, where they played Class 5A No. 1 seed Ouachita in the Doc Edwards Inviational championship game, a one-point loss for Bossier.
“That’s a benefit to us,” Williams said. “We’re one up on Carroll, because they haven’t played there. We are familiar. But it’s a long road. We have to go in and continue to do the things we’ve been doing. Shooting isn’t going to win the game. Defending will.”
The Bearkats practiced at Centenary’s Gold Dome this week to get ready for the change in depth perception when playing in larger, open arenas.
“When you are used to playing in smaller venues, you have to adjust to the different perception, just get used to the way the rim looks when you are shooting in an open area,” Williams said. “We looked pretty good shooting (at Centenary), and we’ve played in arenas like this before.”
Bossier has thrived on its defense all season. In the quarterfinals, the Bearkats gave up just two points in the first quarter and 45 total to Glen Oaks.
“We’ve seen them play several times, know a lot about them, and they are a good basketball team,” Carroll coach Jesse Burnette said.
“They’ve been ranked No. 1 the whole year. We just have to be prepared. We know Bossier isn’t going to change what it does, and that’s tough defense. We like to think we do the same thing.”
While Bossier had played tough defense, the Bearkats have started slow on offense, a habit they hope to break today.
“We will have to settle down early and make the shots we know we can make,” Hall said. Hall said, even though he played in the semifinal and championship games last season, he still feels nerves before a big game.
“It’s just something that goes through you,” he said. “But it goes away over the course of the game. You just have to settle down, make sure the adrenaline isn’t running too high.”
Saturday’s semifinal lineup also includes the other 3A matchup, with No. 3 Farmerville (21-6) playing No. 23 seed Parkview Baptist (17-13) at 4:30 p.m.
The winner will be able to stay and scout the Bossier-Carroll game to prepare for the state championship game next weekend in Monroe.
The first game of the day features a Class C boys matchup between No. 1 Atlanta (26-4) and No. 4 Sicily Island (27-4).