North Caddo not fearing the odds

North Caddo not fearing the odds

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North Caddo not fearing the odds

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On paper, North Caddo is one of the biggest underdogs in LHSAA boys basketball state tournament history.

The Class 2A No. 28 Rebels are the lowest seed to advance to semifinals in any class since the current seeding structure started in 2008.

North Caddo faces a No. 1 Riverside team that some consider the best in the state alongside Scotlandville regardless of classification.

But the Rebels don’t care about seeding or about Riverside’s bevy of talent that includes reigning Class 2A player of the year Von Julien, who has an Oklahoma State offer among others.

“Our mindset is that we’re going to beat them,” said sophomore forward Robert Williams. “That’s what we’re thinking and what we’ve got to be thinking.

“We have to think that we’re equal, it’s just two teams, and whatever happens, happens.”

What has happened is a Rebel squad that started 3-14 turned their season around to win nine of their last 13.

In the playoffs, the Rebels started with a 59-47 win at No. 5 Opelousas Catholic, survived No. 12 Doyle at home in a 55-48 win and then blew out No. 13 St. Thomas Aquinas in the second half of a 72-45 win.

Coach Ron Meikle claims he doesn’t have any fairy dust or magic potion. Rather the 3-14 start against a tough schedule with a half-strength roster is misleading.

“We had so much roster shake up from the start of the season to district play, and really the first couple of district games including the first meeting with (No. 2 Lakeview),” Meikle said. “We started to handle the ball better, and it settled our team. Our chemistry started getting better.”

The Rebels missed their first-team all-district in Dreyco Lawrence, who was ruled ineligible. Several other players missed time for a variety of reasons, leaving North Caddo shorthanded in close losses to teams like Ruston (58-57), Captain Shreve (68-64) and Neville (60-57) among others.

North Caddo didn’t have its current roster when they met Lakeview for the first time, losing 92-55.

But players like Jontaveon Brooks and Robert Williams were taking leadership roles, and midseason additions like seniors Justin Homer and Tyree McCauley and the emergence of freshmen Ke’Shun Sanders, Detaveus Easter and Darin Scott proved valuable.

‘We got a couple of players back and added some others … and it just started clicking,” Brooks said. “A lot of stuff changed with the new coach, and I was attached to the old coach (Joel Brown) because I had a lot of freedom.

“It was a big worry to me. But (Meikle) treated like he knew me all my life, and I got the same freedom.”

The players eventually grew to trust Meikle, a former NBA scout of more than 20 years and a former college head coach and assistant. After the Atlanta Hawks’ new management dismissed the current staff, Meikle heard about the North Caddo job from a friend when he was traveling through Shreveport.

Brooks said Meikle’s background gave the coach credibility with his new players.

“At the beginning of the season, I was focused more on my scoring and putting pressure on myself,” Brooks said. “But he set me down and said to let the game to me.

“I finally did that, and we started winning. We have a lot more balance now, and teams have to guard everyone.”

Williams added that he started really listening to Meikle in the first-round playoff game when he helped in the press break and started playing more in the post with his agile 6-foot-6 frame.

Meikle said he was part of another turn around at Scottsdale Community College in which his team started 3-9 with a mostly freshmen group only to finish second in the league and one point from the national tournament.

“Every game is about going to work, and you just do your job and don’t panic,” Meikle said. “A lot of kids get nervous and scared on this stage, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised because these young guys have played well under pressure.

“Every game we get it a little bit better … doing things like getting to the middle on the press breaker and getting easy baskets like alley-oops and game-changing plays.”

Riverside’s (29-1) only loss was to Class 5A Scotlandville, and while Meikle acknowledges the challenge, he said playing No. 2 Lakeview paired with his team’s increasing confidence means they have a chance.

“Our guys are playing loose and fancy free,” Meikle said. “Riverside has so many shooters and really move the ball against zone defense.

“These guys don’t want to stop playing, and they will be disappointed when the season ends. They can’t wait to get to the gym every day, and that’s a great feeling as a coach.”

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