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Thursday, January 31, 2008

UCP mess

University Christian Prep's first season in the LHSAA will be a memorable one but not for the right reasons. It is memorable because the school's athletic program was shut down by the LHSAA before completing its first season.

The LHSAA's report comes out on Friday, but it likely won't be pretty. Besides ineligble players in football,there was an ugly altercation in basketball at Sarepta in January.

Hopefully, this will serve as a proper wake-up call to UCP - either get with it in regards to LHSAA rules or get out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where were the people?

So I pull up at Fair Park tonight, find a parking place and walk toward the gym.

This is a big night in boys basketball. Two teams tied atop the District 1-4A standings.

I walk in and - where are the people?

The gym wasn't half full.

For those who were there, they saw an entertaining overtime win for Minden. Neither team led by more than eight points at any point in th game.

For those who weren't,you missed some good high school basketball.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cooper down to two

Calvary wide receiver Khiry Cooper is down to Nebraska and Arkansas for destination's for his college athletic career.

Sure an MLB team could possibly make college football a moot point for the toolsy center fielder, but Cooper is keeping an open mind about his options.

Some may find it hard to do that as Cooper is busy starting in three sports at Calvary. Factor in schoolwork, these official visits and months of visual poking and prodding by pro baseball scouts and that makes for a hectic year. However, Cooper has kept his wits about him.

"At times you find it hard to balance it," he said. "You think about it and how lucky you are. I get stressed out and I become in awe. A lot of people want to be in my position. When you're a top recruit, you’re honored and realize how blessed you are. Some weekends I could have gone to visits and I went to church camps. I put God first and it will all work out."

I realize factoring God into any athletic equation has become cliched and seems disingenuous, but the few times I've spoken with Cooper, it seems to come from the heart.

I'm sure Cooper could be one heck of a college receiver. He could probably be a good college basketball player. Personally, I'd love to see him try his hand at baseball.

Black major leaguers are bemoaning the lack of blacks coming up in the game. Cooper's skills and personality are a Torii Hunter-like mix and everyone saw how popular Hunter was in Minnesota.

Regardless, wherever Khiry Cooper ends up, that team or school is getting a quality athlete and a quality individual.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Good news for Byrd soccer

The Byrd girls soccer team clinched the Division I District 1 championship with Sunday's victory over Caddo Magnet in a staggeringly long matchup that took two overtimes and seven penalty kicks to decide.

But there is plenty of good news for the Jackets outside of their title. One is Megan Wilder.

The goalkeeper is just a sophomore, but she plays like someone much older and much more experienced. For instance, in nine district games, Wilder is unscored upon. Yes she got beat four times in the penalty kick portion of Sunday's game, but none of those count as goals.

Assuming she stays healthy, Byrd coach Lisa Levermann's last line of defense seems set for the upcoming playoffs and for the next two seasons.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Good to see some friendliness

I covered my first wrestling meet during my Times tenure today and I was surprised to see the camaraderie between the competitors.

There was a Bossier wrestler exhorting an Airline competitor during the Viking's championship match. There were other exhibitions of the same sportsmanship throughout the Bossier High gym.

It's a shame more sports and athletes don't share the same view of friendly competition.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Good idea, LHSAA

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association's decision to go to a power-points system for the 2009 basketball playoffs is one that will serve everyone well.

And that includes the prep basketball fans.

As part of the amendment, coaches will be required to report their records at four points during the season. Coaches who do not report their records will cost their school money in fines.

So how does this help the fans? For one, you, in theory, will be able to see accurate and timely records reported in The Times and at shreveporttimes.com.

The casual fan would be surprised to know exactly how many coaches don't know their records off the tops of their heads. Now, thanks to the LHSAA, that won't be the case anymore.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A busy week

It's been a busy week in the preps world.

We've had the usual basketball schedule. But it's the final week of soccer so you have teams jockeying for playoff position. We've had Airline win the Bossier City wrestling championship and Huntington do the same in Shreveport. We've got the regional meet coming up Saturday.

It's a great prelude to the always busy spring sports season.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An amazing athlete

Airline wrestler Matt Rabinowitz may not get all the publicity of Calvary's Jake Booty or Fair Park's Morris Claiborne, but the kid deserves consideration as one of the best athletes in the city.

At the Bossier City wrestling championship, he proved why. He won both of his 112-pound matches with pins, getting one pin in 32 seconds and the other in 12!

His 12-second pin was amazing. He grabbed his Bossier opponent with a hold around his torso, flung him to the ground and curled the poor Bearkat kid into a ball for the pin. All in 12 seconds.

He's unbelievably quick and built like a fire hydrant. He really is an talented athlete who deserves some more pub.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sweet home

I covered my first game in the new Northwood High School gym tonight and I must say, it's pretty nice.

The lighting is good (not great) and the floor appears to be outstanding. The seating is about right for a school that size.

You've got to figure with a nice building Northwood might be able to keep some students from leaving the district.

The BTW gym is a year older and it's a nice one as well.

I'm looking forward to seeing the new Minden gym this year.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Here's where small districts help

Three girls basketball teams in District 1-5A will battle down the stretch for playoff berths.

Of course, they're all playing for second in the district behind Southwood, but Byrd, Huntington and Airline are in a three-way battle for their postseason lives. And that battle is huge this week as Airline faces both teams.

Thanks to a five-team district alignment -- instead of the massive nine-team football district the schools play in -- the playoff spots are easier to attain.

And no one has a shorter distance to look to for motivation than the Lady Vikes. After all, it was just a year ago the Airline boys snuck into the playoffs with a less-than-spectacular record and reached the quarterfinal round before falling.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Good news for Pleasant Hill

Pleasant Hill boys basketball coach Rusty Johnson did not have a very merry Christmas.

Instead, he was wondering how to lift the morale of a team that had 18 wins taken away from it by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. Then came Jan. 12 and Johnson was able to smile.

That's when the LHSAA informed him it would no longer make the team forfeit the 18 games in which D'Ante Youngblood played.

It is a seemingly rare instance in which the LHSAA admits to making a mistake, especially of this magnitude, but it certainly made for some heartache in Sabine Parish.

Now, Pleasant Hill gets to keep its 27-3 record and will probably be ranked in the Class C top 10 when the polls are released later this week.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Coaches like new playoff setup

The Louisiana state basketball, baseball and softball playoffs will have a different look this year.

And most coaches up here like it.

I spoke with several basketball, baseball and softball coaches and they seem to think letting playoff-bound coaches seed the brackets will work out better than the old system of matching certain districts with one another.

"To me, I feel like it’s a good change," Parkway coach Brian Rayner said. "The way it is now, sometimes you get put in a situation where you may be faced with a lot of adversity in the first round. It’s been so much the same year after year. We know if Bossier makes the playoffs, where they're going."

Only time will tell if the results back up their faith, but, for now, the coaches are happy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Evangel's secret weapon

The Evangel girls basketball team has a secret weapon.

Eighth grader Jasmine Christaw played a key role in the Lady Eagles' win over Homer on Friday night that allowed ECA to stay perfect in district play.

Christaw also operated smoothly out of the high post when the Eagles went to that offense, either hitting shots or making nice passes.

Her development should be something to watch over the next few seasons.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Huntington's pretty good

After checking out Huntington for the second time this season -- and many more if you count summer league -- I've come to a conclusion.

The Raiders are pretty good.

Before you say, "Duh", hear me out.

I thought they Raiders were good in the summer. But they have played the first half of the season without Shamir Davis.

He was back tonight against Natchitoches Central. Although he scored only one point, his return means the Raiders will be just that much deeper in the backcourt.

The other reason Huntington is good is the Raiders aren't strictly a backcourt-oriented team. They also have a strong inside game with Kendrick Washington. He can score inside, but perhaps more importantly, he can alter and block shots.

This is a team that with any kind of a favorable bracket should be playing in Lafayette at the Top 28. After being the victim of a horrible call to end their playoff hopes last year, this is a team that deserves some good fortune.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Think you've got it tough

All high school coaches put in extra work outside their jobs. That's a given.

Whether its driving a bus, mowing a field or just getting the practice field in shape, coaches do more than just coach.

Then there are the coaches at Stanley -- and I'm sure other smaller schools in our state and coverage area.

Brian Anderson and Josh Foshee are the two head coaches on staff at the Class C DeSoto Parish school. Anderson coaches the boys and Foshee the girls.

Yes, that's right. Not boys and girls basketball. The boys and the girls.

Anderson doubles as the baseball coach while Foshee splits his time coaching basketball and softball. Both coaches were pulling double-duty as we arrived to shoot mug shots today.

Anderson put it succinctly, "We practice baseball when it's daylight and then go practice basketball afterward."

He's not complaining though. "It would be different if I had some (unlikeable kids). But these are really good kids I've got."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Keep an eye on ....

Those Natchitoches Centrals girls.

The Lady Chiefs are ranked No. 4 in the state girls basketball poll that came out just minutes ago.

Now, here is why you should care. The Lady Chiefs have only one senior.

I'm not saying they're dropping a banner next year, but you've got to figure that they'll only get better over the next two seasons.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Basketball polls

Hard to believe, but the state basketball polls are due out soon.

What does that mean for the area?

Look for Southwood to be high in the Class 5A girls and Huntington and Ruston to be high in Class 5A boys. The Natchitoches Central girls could also be in the poll.

In Class 4A, Parkway's girls and, possibly the Bossier boys, could get some poll recognition.

In Class 3A, BTW's boys should figure in the mix.

Springhill heads up the area's hopes in Class 2A. Many could also figure in there.

In the lower classes, Arcadia boys and Calvin girls are among the best bets.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hittin' the road

Times sports editor Scott Ferrell and I hit the open road -- well, I-20 -- Friday afternoon in search of mugs for our weekly Area Preps pages.

And I'm happy to report a good, safe time was had by all.

In all seriousness, one of the best parts of covering high school sports is watching the looks on student-athletes faces when you show up at a school specifically to see them.

Heck, it even makes snapping 18-20 mundane mug shots somewhat of a joy -- especially during basketball season.

If there's a line of kids around, the person standing in front of the camera is going to be hit with every joke, insult and everything else in an attempt to mess up his or her picture. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't.

But what it shows is, as many times as we forget, these still are kids who are playing games they love.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Minden on the right track

Talked to a handful of Webster Parish basketball people today. The fruits of these conversations can be seen on Page 2C of Friday's editions of The Times.

It seems Minden girls coach Devoderick Ridley has his team headed in the right direction. He's preaching chemistry and teamwork, not individual play.

He wants his players to be well-rounded and it seems they are.

The record (7-11) is something Ridley said is deceiving. What wouldn't be deceiving would be to see Minden work its way into the Class 4A state playoffs.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Basketball seeding

Basketball coaches from around the area are reciving proposals in the mail about a possible seeding system for the playoffs.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this. Football has a pretty good system with power points that eliminates the politics of seeding, although it is an imperfect system as well.

Hopefully they'll get a system where the best 32 teams in each class are playing in the playoffs and in a system that rewards teams for the best regular season.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Is Southwood a sleeper?

Raise your hand if you had Southwood reaching the finals of the Bossier Invitational?

And raise your hand again if you had Southwood LEADING Huntington in the fourth quarter of the finals tonight?

And keep your hand raised if you thought the Cowboys would hang into overtime before finally losing?

Not many hands.

In fact, Southwood may be a sleeper team. Norman Picou is in his first year as the Cowboys' coach and apparently the team is making some progress.

I saw them back in the summer league and thought they were Louis Ellis and not much else.

So congrats to the Cowboys for making a nice tournament run and getting tuned up for district play.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Huntington-Mansfield develop rivalry

For the third time in this tournament-laden prep basketball season, Huntington and Mansfield met in a tourney game, this one the semifinals of the Bossier Invitational.

In case you're scoring at home, the count now is Huntington 3, Mansfield 0.

But on Friday it looked as if it could go either way. Until a dominant third-quarter performance by Kendrick Washington, Mansfield was in the game.

Huntington coach Mack Jones praised the Wolverines while Mansfield coach Chris Thomas was looking to face someone other than the Raiders in a tournament.

Washington's duel with Mansfield's Chris Davenport should have local hoops fans salivating. Both are juniors. Both are a proverbial load to defend and both have yet to hit their peak.

Mansfield, meanwhile, is playing very well and looks like it has a chance to go deep into the Class 2A state playoffs based on its play against higher-classification schools thus far.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Old-home week at Bossier Invitational

I popped into the Bossier High gym Thursday afternoon to shoot some mugs of Ruston players for our Area Preps pages.

While I was waiting I ran into a couple of familiar faces who both had impressive prep athletic careers.

Former Parkway High baseball and football standout Jarvis Larry is now a Bossier City police officer. He was working security. Apparently, his 7-year-old son is following in his footsteps, though dad says, "He's better than I was."

Bossier High assistant basketball coach Chris Thompson was a standout on an Airline High team that reached the Top 28 his senior year.

Then there's current Bossier High principal David Thrash, who built quite a baseball power up the road in Benton.

As someone from this area who attended a local high school, it felt like old-home week once again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ready for some hoops?

If you're a hoopaholic, then Thursday is your day.

The Bossier Invitational begins and if you so choose, you can watch boys high school basketball from 9:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.

Because the tournament fell during the holidays, the Bossier Tournament is a three-day event this year.

Thursday's games start with BTW playing Woodlawn at 9:30 a.m.; Southwood plays Fair Park at 11 a.m.; Mansfield plays Captain Shreve at 12:30 p.m.; Huntington plays Haughton at 2 p.m.; Ruston plays at Byrd at 3:30 p.m.; Red River plays DeRidder at 5 p.m.; Bossier plays Green Oaks at 6:30 and the tournament ends with an 8 p.m. game between Parkway and Airline.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day hoops

Arcadia and Ruston played the rare New Year's day boys basketball game tonight.

Ruston won the game, 68-66, in overtime.

This one was a tough one for Arcadia. The Hornets have lost three times to Ruston this season and twice the losses have come in overtime.

This one came on a night when Arcadia missed 28 free throw attempts.

The good news for Arcaida - the Hornets will soon be in district play and playing Class 1A teams. They should be plenty prepared for January and February basketball.