Cavaliers square off with Cajuns today in state semis

NO DOUBTING THOMAS: Malaki Thomas (1) is ready for Calvary’s semifinal game today against Metairie Park Country Day.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

LAFAYETTE — There aren’t any surprises in the semifinals of the LHSAA Division IV boys’ basketball playoffs that will be played today at the Cajundome in Lafayette. As expected, the top four seeded teams will battle it out to reach Saturday’s championship game.

No. 1 Southern Lab of Baton Rouge (15-3) meets No. 4 Hamilton Christian of Lake Charles (22-8) in the first game at 2:00, followed by No. 2 Calvary Baptist (22-9) and third-seeded Metairie Park Country Day (18-11) at 4:00. The winners collide Saturday at 2.

While Calvary and Country Day will be meeting for the first time, neither team is new to playoff success. The Cavaliers, who hope to be in their third straight championship game, were defeated by Crescent City in both prior attempts at the title.

The Country Day Cajuns took the 2017 and 2019 Division III titles back to Metairie and won back-to-back Class 1A championships in 2013-2014.

Both teams are also led by powerful tandems. Brothers Connor and Jordan Trahan have spurred the Cajuns to victory in 13 of their last 14 games while seniors La’Bree Williams and Martin McDowell pack a one-two punch for the Cavs.

“The Trahan brothers are very good players,” says Calvary coach Vic Morris. “They are big-time pieces to Country Day’s team. Country Day is a great program with a great coach (Mike McGuire). They are fundamentally sound and they play hard.”

If Williams and McDowell perform the way they did in last Saturday’s quarterfinal victory over Ascension Catholic, the Cajuns will have their hands full. The duo scored all of the Cavs’ 26 first-quarter points and, with junior Kameron Kennon, were responsible for 19 of Calvary’s 20 second-quarter points. Williams, who had a game-high 41 points in the win, is one of the top-ranked recruits in the state.

“Bree and ‘Tino’ are our leaders,” Morris says of Williams and McDowell, “but we have a lot of guys playing good ball right now.”

In fact, Morris is quick to point out that depth is one of Calvary’s strengths.

“We are a deep team,” he says. “We have a number of guys who can step up and contribute on any given night. I think that’s our biggest strength. I expect Malaki (Thomas), KJ (Kennon), Landon (Sylvie), Konnor (Cotton) and others to step up and contribute.”

Malaki Thomas is well aware of the expectations placed on the Calvary lineup. “I feel good,” says the junior forward. “We’re at a good point. We’re excelling in our roles.”

Thomas is also tuned in on the Trahan brothers. “Those are the two main guys (for Country Day),” he says. “Our game plan is to control them, not shut them down. We know we can’t totally shut them down, so our goal is to not let them beat us.”

If the Cavs are to reach that goal, Morris knows it will have to be a total team effort with each piece of the puzzle fitting together. The coach also knows Thomas is one of those important pieces.

“Malaki is a great kid,” says Morris. “He handles his business on and off the court. He’s a very good basketball player that brings a lot to our team. He’s a threat on the offensive end and a big-time defender and rebounder. He’s a vital piece to this championship run. I look for him to have a big game Wednesday.”

 Photo by JOHN PENROD