Natchitoches Central claims Class 5A title

Natchitoches Central claims Class 5A title

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Natchitoches Central claims Class 5A title

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LAKE CHARLES

Scotlandville kept attacking the Natchitoches Central big men, and the Chiefs kept protecting the rim.

Sophomores Cameron Lard and Austin Guy combined for nine blocks and altered many more shots, as the Chiefs put the clamps on the two-defending state champion and top-seeded Hornets in a 60-53 victory in the Class 5A title game. The win was the first boys basketball state championship in the school’s 40-plus-year history.

Lard, the Chiefs’ 6-foot-9 center, scored a game-high 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting with 10 rebounds and six blocks, and was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.

“We challenged him before the game,” Natchitoches Central coach Micah Coleman said. “He’s the biggest guy on the floor. That’s obvious. We told him to go play like that.”

It was clear from the early going that the Chiefs’ game plan was to attack the paint. Lard scored the first NCHS points on a bucket in the paint, and then he converted a three-point play at the rim. Lard and Guy, a 6-4 forward, combined to score 11 of the team’s first 13 points.

“The bigs, they did an outstanding job of scoring points,” Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said. “I don’t think they scored many outside the paint. The battle was won in the paint.”

The Chiefs (31-3) started three players who were 6-4 or taller, while Scotlandville (35-2) didn’t have a player on the roster bigger than 6-3. Natchitoches Central won the rebounding battle, 39-27, and outscored the Hornets 46-20 in the paint. All but one of the Chiefs’ 24 field goals were scored in the paint.

“Those are some long guys, and we didn’t have the size to match their size,” Sample said.

Sample said the Chiefs’ length played a factor, but his team didn’t play very well offensively. The Hornets shot just 19 of 59 from the field (32.2 percent) and made only 6 of 26 3-pointers. Natchitoches Central, meanwhile, shot 62.3 percent from the field, making 24 of 38 shots, and took just one 3-pointer in the game.

“We sputtered a little bit offensively,” Sample said. “We didn’t get any easy buckets. They made us work for buckets.”

Scotlandville did force turnovers, 18 in the game and 12 in the first half. And the Hornets turned those turnovers into 17 points. But Sample said they didn’t do a good enough job of taking advantage of their opportunities.

The game was tight throughout, and the crowd was rocking. The Chiefs led by two after the first quarter, by three at the half and didn’t lead by more than six until the fourth quarter. Scotlandville tied the game at 37 with 1:40 left in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Jordan Adebutu, who made four in the game and finished with 18 points. LaMarcus Lee led Scotlandville with 19 points.

But the Chiefs finished the quarter on a 6-0 run, including a monster jam by Lard, to take a six-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Hornets cut it to four early in the quarter and to five with 1:28 remaining. Adebutu’s fourth and final 3 with 14 seconds made it 57-53, but Danny Cohen and Brandon Rachal combined to make 3 of 4 free throws to clinch the contest.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more intense, possession for possession, game in my life,” Coleman said.

Cohen, Rachal and Guy all finished with 10 points in the game, while senior point guard Andre Jackson added six points and five assists. The Chiefs’ five starters played almost every single minute of the game. Senior Keyth Jackson played one minute, while senior guards Dyllon Weaver and Ricky Metoyer got on the floor for the final 2.7 seconds.

Coleman said his players “reached way down” to handle Scotlandville’s pressure defense, remaining focused throughout the game and matching the Hornets’ intensity. The NCHS coach was effusive in his praise of the Hornets, particularly senior point guard Ezekiel Brown.

Brown struggled shooting, making just 2 of 11 shots and missing all five of his 3-point attempts. He finished with only six points and six assists, and Coleman praised Jackson’s defensive effort for causing Brown to struggle.

The Chiefs had to play their best game on Friday in order to bring home the championship trophy, and Coleman was pleased with what he saw from his team.

“I know they got our best tonight,” Coleman said.

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