District 2-3A boys basketball has had a stranglehold on the LHSAA Top 28 tournament in recent years. Since 2006, at least one team from 2-3A has been in the state semifinals or state championship game every year.
The Rayville Hornets kept that streak alive in 2015 and had one of the best season’s in school history. Coach Damon West now ends the year as The News-Star All-NELA Big School Boys Coach of the Year.
Rayville finished the season 31-3, won the 2-3A championship, became only the sixth team other than Ouachita High School to win Ouachita’s Don Redden Tournament, and lost in the Class 3A semifinals to John Curtis, 72-69.
“It is a real honor to win this award,” West said. “I have to thank our coaches and players. A lot of times we get caught up in coaching and forget to thank the guys that get you there — the players.”
West was assisted this season by Ron Ellis and Atwan James.
West and his assistant coaches finished the year finally getting to coach in the Top 28 instead of watching from the bleachers where fellow district teams Carroll played Union Parish in the 2013 finals and Richwood reached the finals last season.
“These seniors started (at Rayville) when I did,” West said. “It came full circle. Hopefully these guys coming back can keep it going.”
Seniors Jamarion “Papa” Johnson, Decarion Qualls, Cameron Kelly, Jonathan Baker, and James Stewart gave the team solid leadership throughout the season.
Johnson and junior C’Anthony Murphy were named to the All-NELA Big School Boys First-Team and sophomore Michael “Pooh” Williams was second-team selection with their coach.
“It is well deserving,” Johnson said of West winning coach of the year. “He is more than just a coach to me. He is like a father figure and a good mentor.”
Despite the disappointing loss to John Curtis that left the team two wins from a state championship, West said the program will grow stronger from the experience.
“You have to take care of the ball,” West said. “You have to protect the ball the whole game and play the entire game through. Those are things we definitely learned from that experience.”
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2015 All-NELA Big School Boys Basketball Team
G – Cephus Gix – So., Ouachita
G – C’Anthony Murphy – Jr., Rayville
G – Kavontae Turpin – Sr., Neville
F – Isaiah Buggs – Sr., Ruston
F – Jamarion ‘Papa’ Johnson – Sr., Rayville
G – C.J. Jones – So., Ouachita
G – Michael ‘Pooh’ Williams – So., Rayville
G – Saxton Becker – Jr., West Ouachita
F – Amari Davis – Sr., Carroll
F – Larry Owens – So., Carroll
Sixth Man of the Year: Jay Gill – Ouachita
Ouachita: Jay Gill, Jay Head, D’Majio Richard
Ruston: Terrance Dodson, Ty Anderson
West Monroe: Dennis Collins, Jake Norris
Bastrop: Kengerald Thompson, Quantavious Hawkins
Franklin Parish: Reginald Carter, Jontavis Allen
Neville: Deshun ‘Itty’ Roberson, J.T. Silas
West Ouachita: Jakob Rowton, Andre Johnson
Wossman: Jarvis Dean, Quantavious Hawkins
Carroll: Jerrell Gundy, Jameon Green
Madison: Josh Loyd, Camerio Powell
Rayville: Zach Smith, D’Montreal Wilson, Joseph Jones
Richwood: D’Angelo Smith, Andrew Janiszcak
Union Parish: LaGregious Bradford, Jordan Jones