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(Rick Hickman / American Press)

(Rick Hickman / American Press)

(mgnonline.com)

(mgnonline.com)

Arceneaux: Playoff time for high school basketball in Lake Area

Last Modified: Saturday, February 09, 2013 5:50 PM

By Warren Arceneaux / American Press

The basketball regular season seemed to fly by, especially in the case of one of the area’s new stars, Washington-Marion freshman Mark Vital.

Vital helped W-M capture the District 4-4A crown in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year after the loss of a strong senior class that included Javandon Staves, Jadonta Blakely, Harold Clark and Anthony Dantley.

This season, the Charging Indians maintained their district dominance with a talented kiddie corps, led by Vital. Before the season started, Vital was an Internet star from highlight reels of spectacular dunks as a middle schooler.

There were plenty of new additions to those reels this season, but Vital is no one-trick pony. There is substance to his game. In the district-clinching win over LaGrange Friday night, Vital scored 12 points over the game’s final 12 minutes to help carry the Charging Indians to the win.

Sophomore Dedrick Richmond scored 22 points and fellow sophomore Jeremiah Warren made a couple of big defensive plays down the stretch. The trio of youngsters helped make the year a reloading, not rebuilding one.

Westlake’s resurgence is at the opposite end of the spectrum. The Rams do not have W-M’s pedigree and have had the same nucleus for the past couple of seasons. This season that group took a step up and gave the Rams a district championship with a pair of tough wins this week, on the road at Iowa and at home over a Crowley team that had beaten them a couple of weeks ago.

The Rams don’t light up scoreboards, but have an elite athlete in Jacory Washington, a shooter in Justin Johnson and a tough point guard in John Mark. To borrow a term from the Memphis Grizzlies, the Rams “grit and grind” their way to wins. The power rating bonus for winning the district should be enough to allow the Rams to open the postseason at home.

On the girls side, Sulphur and St. Louis won’t have to do much number-crunching after completing undefeated district runs. Like the W-M boys, the Lady Tors have had youngsters step up, while the Lady Saints have been led by a couple of veterans in Jada Peltier and Hillary Henning.

Last year’s girls powers of Fairview, Lacassine and Pickering have all maintained their status quo, and look set to return to the Lake Charles regional for the semifinal round. The Fairview boys look set to return as well behind the high-scoring tandem of Josh Walker and Tyler Maddox.

Those teams are in good position in the power ratings heading into release of the playoff pairings this week. Other teams that will be seeded further down that could spring an upset or two include the DeRidder girls who have been a Top Ten team most of the season but lost two District 4-4A showdowns with St. Louis, the Pickering and Rosepine boys who have dominated District 4-2A, the Hamilton Christian boys that won the District 4-1A title and the Iowa boys, who lost a crucial game Friday that could have forced a District 4-3A playoff, but have a wealth of athleticism and experience.

• • •

Warren Arceneaux covers high school athletics. Email him at warceneaux@americanpress.com

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