Only room for one winner: Rivals W-M, LCCP meet in first round of state playoffs

Published 3:31 pm Friday, February 23, 2024

High school basketball layoffs bring high-stakes games, and two Lake Area boys teams will tip off in one tonight in a rematch of a tightly contested regular-season game.

No. 16 Lake Charles College Prep will host crosstown rival No. 17 Washington-Marion at 7 p.m. in the bi-district round of the select Division II playoffs.

“It is going to be wall to wall,” W-M head coach Robert Palmer said. “We are ready for that. Like I told them, ‘This is what you want. This is perfect.’

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“I don’t think the crowd will hurt us. We have been in this situation before. The first couple of minutes will tell everything for both teams. It is going to be an exciting game.

“We played them earlier in the year and we beat them by two. I think both teams are better now. It is definitely going to be a good game. We have been winning and they have won a few games in a row too. It is going to be a good matchup.”

A packed house is anticipated because the first game went down to the wire with the Charging Indians winning on the Trailblazers’ home court 52-50 on Dec. 1 in the Hamilton Christian tournament.

“That is an understatement,” LCCP head coach Sean Andrus said. “We are opening the doors at 6 p.m., and they have people saying they are going to be out there at 4 p.m. camping out and waiting to get in line.

“It is going to be pretty big. I have a lot of people who have been waiting for this game. It is going to be good for the city. Hopefully it will get people to come out to games again. They have a lot of young talent in Lake Charles coming up on the boys side, and this would be a preview, possibly, of what the future will look like.”

The loss to W-M is still a fresh memory for LCCP.

“I just remember from that game that Washington-Marion played very hard,” Andrus said. “They are well coached. They are a young team as well. They came out here and were not afraid to play us in our house. I want my guys to understand that they did come here earlier in the year and beat us on our home court. You can’t come in and think we are playing at home, and they will just lay down. You have to go out there and compete, especially a program like Washington-Marion that has a lot of tradition.”

LCCP (13-9) has won 12 of its last 13 games after starting the season 0-6. The District 3-3A runner-up is one of six teams from the district that will host a first-round game or receive a bye. Senior Elijah Garrick leads LCCP with 17 points, while junior Izayha Brown is scoring 13 points a game.

“We played a few big games,” Andrus said. “It is going to be a big game, but I think my guys will be used to the moment and ready to perform.”

W-M won the District 3-4A title and eight of its last nine games after a 6-9 start while the team learned to mesh its talents.

“Nobody knows this, but I had one person who never played varsity before,” Palmer said. “This is a whole new team. I am starting sophomores and freshmen. It just took us a while to get going. They have their confidence going now. I had a tough schedule, and I think it got us ready for where we are now.

“We have been scoring the ball pretty well. We are playing better defense. I think that is the key. We are not giving up easy buckets. People are actually having to work to get a point. That has been helping us. Offensively, we are sharing the ball more. That is part of being confident in your teammates. At first, we had people who were natural scorers who were trying to do everything. You have to rely on your teammate if you want to win.”

W-M’s top scorers are Elijah Gims (17 ppg) and Ja’vonte Gims (15 ppg), while sophomore Monte Farmer (15 ppg, 13 rpg, 7 blocks per game) is a threat on both ends of the court.

“We just have to limit live ball turnovers,” Andrus said. “They have a pretty good young guard over there in Landon Duhon, who pushes the pace for them.

“He kind of runs the show for them. They also have a very good win in Monte Farmer, who is pretty dynamic on offense and pretty good defensively protecting the rim. We have to take our chances and limit them in the open court and get them to play our style of basketball.”