After coasting through the first three rounds, North Caddo and Robert Williams will finally meet some serious resistance in the Top 28 Thursday night in Lake Charles.
No. 1 seed Madison Prep (31-4) should be better equipped than most teams to handle the Rebels’ 6-foot-8 senior thanks to 6-foot-6 sophomore Josh LeBlanc and 6-foot-5 senior William Loyd. But the bigger concern for North Caddo (29-5) coach Ron Meikle could be the Chargers’ tall, athletic guards, led by 6-4 Josh Anderson, one of Louisiana’s top recruits in the class of 2017.
“I think they’ll attack Robert,” Meikle said. “That’s their game. I’m not sure how good of a perimeter shooting team they are. Their main focus of attack is to put the ball on the floor and beat you off the dribble and try to create a mismatch as they play.”
He sees similarities with Lafayette Christian and Natchitoches Central, the only two teams to beat North Caddo since Christmas. Both earned No. 1 seeds and easily made the Top 28 in their respective classes, but the Rebels kept all three games – two against Natchitoches – close until the fourth quarter.
Williams faced few challenges while leading his team to playoff wins over Pickering, Doyle and Episcopal, all by 22 points or more. But even though he got most of the attention, it’s a mistake to overlook the contributions on the perimeter from younger players like juniors Cherrod Hill and Ke’Shun Sanders, as well as sophomore Chris Thomas.
All three can knock down outside shots to keep defenses from collapsing on Williams, who averages better than 26 points per game. Thomas knows the Rebels’ guards might face a little more pressure to score in Thursday night’s semifinal, and Meikle hopes to find ways to keep Madsion Prep off-balance.
“I think our press has been a main weapon of ours all year,” Meikle said. “Certainly we’re going to use it in this game, if not to control the tempo at least to try to slow them down a little bit and give them different looks.”
The Chargers rolled into the semifinals in even more dominant fashion than North Caddo, posting three wins by 43 points or more. They held Newman and Many under 30 points in their last two games to extend 2A’s longest winning streak to 19.
No team ever got closer than 15 points a year ago, when Madison Prep cruised to the 1A title behind LSU freshman Brandon Sampson. North Caddo isn’t new to the Top 28, either, though it lost to eventual 2A champion Riverside Academy in the semifinals each of the past two seasons.
Thomas said the Rebels are determined to make this trip different, and they’ve added some key pieces. Hill gave them another key scoring option after losing The Times’ First Team All-City guard Ka’Davion Evans, who averaged 26 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists as a senior last season.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s impossible to miss the extra tenacity from Williams, who made huge strides this season and proved countless times he can take completely take over a game. That extra sense of urgency drives Williams to keep his teammates focused, making sure Thomas and others bring their best.
“I told him all this year I got to win it for him,” Thomas said. “I can’t lose.”
WHAT: No. 4 North Caddo (29-5) vs. No. 1 Madison Prep (32-4), LHSAA 2A Semifinals
WHEN: 6:15 p.m., Thursday
WHERE: Burton Coliseum, Lake Charles, La.