Last Modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 11:04 AMANACOCO — Change can be a good thing, even under unfortunate circumstances.
In the small town of Anacoco few things are ever unfortunate when it comes to basketball. The Lady Indians have produced one of the most impressive résumés in Southwest Louisiana basketball history, boasting an 8-0 record in state championship games.
The boys teams have always stood in the shadow of the girls despite having large success over the years. Twice the Indians (26-5) have been to the Class B state championship game and lost, their most recent appearance coming in 2006 when they lost 58-56 to Zwolle.
After a 2013 season that saw the Indians step out of the shadow of their female counterparts and reach the state semifinals, the town was abuzz with a return trip to the tournament in 2014 and a possible shot at finally bringing home a state championship. And, to start the season, it looked as if they would live up to those expectations, winning 14 of their first 15 games with their lone loss coming to top-ranked Florien.
“All year everybody has talked about this being the best year Anacoco has ever had at winning a boys state championship,” said senior Jason Ortiz. “It’s been done a lot with the girls, but this is the year for the boys.”
“Everyone is talking about it. At school everyone is expecting us to do good and there is a lot of pressure,” added leading-scorer Will Reese.
The Indians’ second loss came on Dec. 14 when Class 4A Leesville beat them 58-47. Instead of looking back and learning from the loss, the Indians had bigger issues the ensuing Monday when they returned to school.
Two days later, sixth-year head coach Kevin Jeane was arrested and charged by the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office with one count of prohibited sexual conduct between an educator and a student. School officials said Jeane resigned.
In his place stepped his assistant coach and former Leesville head coach Tracy Reese.
“It certainly took me off guard. I definitely wasn’t expecting that,” Reese said. “I had had my stint at head coaching and had no plans to do it again. To get thrust back into this position was a bit of a shock, but I did what I had to do.”
A coaching change is never easy for a team, but coming in the middle of a season makes it remarkably difficult for players and coach.
“It took a little bit of time to get used to,” Reese said. “I tried to keep everything the same for a while, but every coach has their own style that they want to focus on. The kids have had to adjust to me, just the interaction between coach and player, but they have done a super job.”
“I think, at first, it was really weird and at the first practice; I didn’t really want to be there, but we as a team got used to it and came together,” Ortiz said.
Under Reese the Indians swept their next three games, including getting one back from Florien, 65-43 in the title game of the Hornbeck Tournament.
But it was during the winter break that things began to set in for the Indians. They lost their next two games to teams — Choudrant and Bell City — they usually have success against.
“We went through a little spell over the holidays where we got hurt and lost focus,” Reese said.
The slump didn’t last long, though, as the Indians responded to the adversity by reeling off wins in nine of their final 10 games, including a 6-0 District 4-B record.
“We’ve had a good run in district, but we are going to have our work cut out for us once we get into the playoffs,” Reese said.
Among those wins was a one-point win at Class 3A South Beauregard, which boasted the area’s leading-scorer in Micah McElhaney.
“I think we have hit our stride at the right time and have been dominating,” Ortiz said. “Hopefully we can carry that momentum into the playoffs like we did last year.”
The third-seeded Indians open the playoffs at home Friday night against No. 30 Pitkin.