Brandon Rachal wanted the challenge.
And he delivered beyond his coach’s wildest expectations.
Rachal, Natchitoches Central’s 6-foot-4 freshman guard, requested the challenge of guarding Chad Lott, Byrd’s 6-3 junior point guard widely considered the top player in Louisiana’s 2015 class.
Lott entered Tuesday night’s game with all of the accolades, and scholarship offers from several of the country’s top college basketball programs to back up the hype.
He left with a bagel. Rachal and Chiefs junior guard Danny Cohen tag-teamed Lott, frustrating him into an 0-for-8 shooting night and zero points, as Natchitoches Central (14-3) withstood a second-half Byrd rally to pull out a 65-57 overtime victory over the Yellow Jackets (17-3) in a battle of two of the top four teams in the Class 5A power ratings.
“Can I get some donuts?” Rachal jokingly asked his coach, Micah Coleman, after the game. “I checked the book and (Lott) had a donut by his name.”
Rachal didn’t just stand out on the defensive end Tuesday night. He scored 15 points, including a pull-up jumper in the lane with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 54. Rachal stole the inbounds pass to give the Chiefs, who entered the game ranked fourth in Class 5A, a chance to win. However, Lott stole the ball with two seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
Four different players scored in the extra period for Natchitoches Central, which outscored the second-rated Yellow Jackets 11-3 in overtime. Senior center Keyth Johnson scored five points in overtime, sophomore forward Austin Guy scored a bucket, and senior point guard Dre Jackson and Rachal combined to make 4 of 5 free throws.
“Every game is big, but this one just felt a little bit bigger,” Coleman said.
Johnson scored 17 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in what Coleman said was the senior’s “best game of the season.” Guy added 12 points and eight rebounds in a balanced effort that saw eight Chiefs score.
But the biggest story was the way the Chiefs’ defense stymied Lott, who still made his presence felt with a game-high seven assists and four steals.
Rachal said his main goal was keeping Lott out of the paint because that’s wheree he’s most dangerous, both attacking the rim and creating easy buckets for his teammates.
“I want to be one of the best defenders,” Rachal said of why he requested the Lott assignment. “I want to guard the best players.”
“That kid is a great player,” Coleman said of Lott. “I don’t want to take anything way from him. In fact, I want to add to it. (Rachal) and Danny Cohen did a great job. That kid’s a s good as everybody says. I have no doubt about it.”