Warren Arceneaux column: More the merrier for area hoops

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The latest addition to the Southwest Louisiana hoops calendar, the Bayou Border Battle, hosted by Sulphur High School, made a solid debut last week. The event consisted of two days of games between teams from Texas and Louisiana, most of them area teams.

Louisiana won the series with six wins, but the bigger point is that there is room for more big events in the area, in addition to the boys state championship tournament in March, Hamilton Christian’s Showdown in the Lake, which has matured into one of the largest and best tournaments in the state, and Hamilton’s Martin Luther King holiday weekend event which has grown to three days and more than 50 teams.

The Bayou Border Battle was largely a product of word of mouth, said Tors head coach Adam Coleman.

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“I went to high school in Starks, near the border, and played baseball in Texas,” Coleman said. “There was always a friendly rivalry between Louisiana and Texas, and at Starks we played some games in Texas.

“I have some good friends in Texas and talked with them about the idea. They liked it and soon coaches were calling saying they wanted to participate. It grew to 20 teams. We contacted every school after it was over and every one said they enjoyed it and wanted to come back.”

Barbe head coach Carl Klein said he was glad to take part.

“It was a great event and the Texas versus Louisiana format brought a lot of attention to the area,” he said. “It was good for the community.”

Coleman said having the event at McNeese State’s Legacy Center was a big plus.

“It is one of the best venues in the South, and with McNeese’s willingness to work with high schools, we have to take advantage of that,” he said.

Long-gone area events like the St. Louis/Popeyes Classic and the Lake Charles-Boston/American Press tournament inspired Coleman.

“I remember going to watch guys like Chris Jackson and Randy Livingston,” Coleman said. “The gyms were packed and the atmosphere was great. I’d like to give my players a chance to play in an environment like that. Most high school kids don’t get a chance to play in a venue like that.”

One avenue to create a big-time environment would be the creation of a parish tournament.

“There has been some talk of putting that together,” Hamilton head coach Dexter Washington said. “The hard parts would be finding a date and deciding if you would have divisions for big schools and small schools. But I think if you could get it started, even if it was just eight teams the first year, everyone would want to do it.”

Coleman also likes the idea.

“I envy the parishes that have it,” he said. “Of course, we want to compete for state, but some years you may not be able to do that. But, year in and year out we should be able to compete for a parish championship. Those bragging rights would be a huge deal for the kids.”

Klein agreed that kids would love the opportunity to play in such an event, but scheduling and how the games would affect power ratings would be issues in getting one started.

Another idea would be the return of tune-up games between the end of the regular season and start of playoffs. This is still possible, but hard to coordinate, Coleman said.

“You can play a Hall of Fame game at any time, but most teams play them in the preseason,” he said. “We held on to ours this season in hopes of playing a tune-up game, but the schedule makes it hard to arrange. Our district goes to the last playing date. You could maybe do it on a Saturday, but you’d have to find someone who is still able to play. The 34-game limit we have now makes it hard to arrange.”

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