No one said it was going to be easy.
And it wasn’t.
However, the result remained the same as for the third consecutive year: the Division IV basketball state championship is going to reside at Lafayette Christian after the Knights defeated Hamilton Christian, 56-51, at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles on Friday.
“We hadn’t played like this all year,” an emotional Knights coach Errol Rogers said. “We played our best game of the year at the right time of the year.”
“This one is way better,” said Knights senior point guard Terrence Jones Jr., who finished the game with 13 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. “I’m not taking the other two for granted, but I almost cried when the buzzer sounded and I never do that.”
Knights senior forward Javian Howard echoed the sentiments expressed by Rogers and Jones.
“This is one of the best (feelings) ever,” said Howard, who scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed five rebounds. “I’m so excited that I’m speechless right now. Our seniors have all been playing together since we were young kids.”
The newcomer for the Knights, junior Billy Francis Jr., who enrolled at LCA after moving into the area from Arkansas, continued his stellar postseason with a solid game scoring 13 points, grabbing seven rebounds and coming away with a steal. For his efforts, Francis was voted the finals’ Most Outstanding Payer.
“I felt like I was in a dream where someone was going to wake me up at any second,” Francis said. “I just wanted to win.”
Francis looked like someone wanting to do all he could in order to win, as he scored the Knights’ first seven points in the fourth quarter — including a 3-pointer that put LCA ahead 46-38 with 5:11 remaining in the game.
“T.J. hit some big shots, but (Francis) hit a big shot in the corner,” Hamilton Christian head coach Dexter Washington said. “That one really hurt us.”
There wasn’t any one thing Francis could point to for his success in the fourth quarter.
“Things just felt that good (in the fourth quarter),” Francis said. “On the 3-pointer, I was just wide open. I didn’t do a good job of making them in the last game, but my teammates told me to just keep shooting them. So I shot it and it went in. The other two baskets came in transition and my teammates did a good job of finding me.”
Although thrilled to have now won state championships as both the girls’ and boys’ head coach, Rogers found it difficult to celebrate after the final buzzer sounded. In what was a very emotional scene during the press conference, Rogers broke down as he spoke of his good friend Washington.
“We are good friends and as much as I am glad that we won, I hate to see him lose,” said Rogers sitting next to Washington and his voice cracking. “I hate to see him lose. We go way back and we talk every day. It’s hard to see my buddy lose.
“People don’t understand about good friends. We’ve been through a lot. I love this man with all of my heart. It’s hard for me to celebrate because I hate to see him lose. This is my friend right here.”
“If I have to lose a state championship to anybody, I’d rather it be to Errol,” Washington said. “He has done a good job at LCA, but he has been family for a long time. Can’t take anything away from LCA.”