Captain Shreve coach Todd Martinez is well aware of the dangers his team faces when it travels to Byrd on Wednesday after today’s game was cancelled because of weather.
The Gators pounded the Yellow Jackets 100-79 on Jan. 24, but Martinez showed his team film of the 2011-12 season in which Shreve lost to Airline by 31 only to beat them by double digits in the second meeting.
“Airline was No. 2 in the state, and they took us lightly in the second game. We’re expecting Byrd to come with that same mind-set that we had two years ago, wanting to prove that the first game wasn’t a true measure,” Martinez said. “We’re going to come in confident, but we’re not going to let them be overconfident.
“I’ve told them not to expect to score 100 again … because we know how good Byrd is.”
Captain Shreve (14-8, 6-1), which is ranked No. 17 in the kenramsey.com Class 5A power ratings, No. 3 Byrd (23-5, 5-2) and No. 21 Southwood (17-9, 6-1) all have a chance at a district title with three games remaining. The Gators have won the last two district titles.
Byrd appears to have corrected from consecutive losses to Shreve and Southwood by winning its last three games (Parkway, Haughton and Airline) by a combined 64 points.
Jackets coach Rusty Johnson said those two losses woke his team up from a midseason lull after Byrd started 20-3 despite Chad Lott being the only returning starter.
“We went through a lull at this point last year, too,” Johnson said. “It hurts when you see your team way up there in the power rankings, but you don’t always play like it.
“I can’t really say what happened, but I do know that this team is playing hard for four quarters now. Against Shreve, we didn’t play hard in any quarter.”
The matchup features arguably the two best guards in the city in Lott and Shreve senior Jesse McWright.
The guards are different players and will rarely guard each other, but both players piled it on in the first meeting.
McWright scored a game-high 23 points despite foul trouble in the first game while Lott contributed 21 points.
Shreve’s Toronco Loston has led the Gators in scoring much of the season, but McWright has increased his scoring volume to add to his uncanny distribution skills during the Gators’ five-game winning streak since their Southwood loss.
McWright has at least 20 points in his last five games, including three efforts of 25 or more.
“(Jesse has) kinda carried us of late,” Martinez said. “He’s turned it on to another level, especially on the offensive side. He wants the ball in his hands, and I’m more than willing to give it to him.
“We’re trying to make his job a little bit easier by not having him try to beat guys from half court, and just getting it to him in a scoring position to where it’s just one or two dribbles. Chad’s (6-foot-3) got a couple of inches on Jesse (5-foot-10) … but we don’t want our offensive guards getting into foul trouble guarding the other team’s best player. Chad is going to make shots other players aren’t even allowed to take, so we have to not get frustrated and try to take certain things away from him to make him uncomfortable.”
McWright added that having other scoring options allows him to make plays for others.
“Toronco had the hot hand early (Friday against Southwood), and our game plan was to get him the ball,” McWright said. “Whoever is hottest at the time … the end goal is to win and it doesn’t matter who is scoring.
“Cameron Coleman worked hard for us on the offensive boards, and Derrick Mosley got us clutch baskets late.”
Johnson said opponents have thrown every defense imaginable at Lott — triangle and two, box and one among others — and other players like Montrey Thomas and Kory Ashley have the ability to score 20 or more.
“We have to have other guys step up … and Chad realizes that it’s not all about scoring and that somebody is going to be open,” Johnson said. “Chad didn’t score against Natchitoches Central because they used a box and one the whole game, but we had other guys step up and could have won that game if we didn’t turn it over twice at the end.
“We had 19 players play against Haughton and 17 of them scored … Jesse’s a good player and penetrator, but if you leave him open, he can shoot that shot, too.”
Lott and McWright are the only returning starters for their respective teams, therefore they shoulder extra leadership roles.
But both teams have had other players assert themselves into large roles, and both teams are rounding into form with the playoffs looming.
For Johnson, he wants his team to approach these last three games, which include district leaders Shreve and Southwood, like they’re playing in a playoff atmosphere.
“A district championship is great, but we’re trying to get ready to make a run in the playoffs,” Johnson said. “This bunch is different in that they seem to talk more about the Huntingtons and the Bossiers than teams in our district.
“Since I’ve been here (third season), our kids don’t take this game as seriously as Shreve does. But with three games left and (Shreve and Southwood) at home, it’s up to us now. We’ve got to put out our best effort.”
Lott and McWright will be putting out their best effort at the collegiate level.
McWright, a senior said Arkansas and Louisiana Tech are recruiting him, and he also has an interest in Northwestern State.
The bigger Lott has offers from LSU, Arizona State and Tech among others.