By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports
LAFAYETTE – To say the Calvary Cavaliers face a tall order when they take on the Southern Lab Kittens in the LHSAA Division IV boys’ basketball championship game is an understatement.
The Kittens sport a roster with nine of their 14 players over 6-feet tall.
When No. 2 seed Calvary (23-9) takes on top-seeded Southern Lab (16-3) in Saturday’s 2:00 final at the Cajundome, the Cavs are hoping the third time is the charm. Calvary is making its third straight championship appearance after falling to Crescent City in the 2020 and 2021 tournaments.
Southern Lab, on the other hand, is trying to get back to its glory days. While the Kittens made it to the Division IV championship game in 2017, their earlier success came in Class 1A — where they brought the state title to Baton Rouge in consecutive season from 1993-2001 and again from 2003-2005.
“They are a very good team,” Calvary coach Vic Morris says of Southern Lab. “From watching their semifinal game, I know that they will play hard until the end.”
Actually, the very end. Southern Lab saw a four-point halftime lead evaporate in the third quarter, when Hamilton Christian outscored the Kittens 15-8 to take a 41-38 edge. Southern Lab fought back in the fourth quarter and claimed a 61-60 victory when Johnathan Butler sank a 3-pointer from the corner with only 3.2 seconds left.
When it comes to defending the taller Kittens, Morris is confident his players are up to the task.
“I think we will be fine,” he says. “We have some guys that can match up with them. We will defend them just like any other team with a few minor adjustments.”
Donovan Davis led Southern Lab with a game-high 23 points in the semifinal victory, followed by Tyler Ringgold with 15 points. Ringgold, a 6-foot-7 junior forward, also had four blocks for the Kittens.
While Calvary will be led by seniors La’Bree Williams and Martin McDowell, Morris knows he can depend on his supporting cast.
In their 58-50 semifinal victory over Metairie Park Country Day, McDowell led the Cavs with a game-high 17 points while Williams scored 6 of his 8 points in the final five minutes of the game.
But they got plenty of help, as usual. Junior Malaki Thomas finished with 12 points, while junior Kameron Hennon came off the bench to add 15 points. The play of freshman Kolby Thomas, who came off the bench and hit two 3-pointers, and others certainly contributed to the victory.
“Depth has been a big plus for our team this year,” explains Morris, “and we have several guys that make impacts on the game that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Chase Stripland, Konnor Cotton, Chris Jackson, Landon Sylvie all have done tremendous jobs defensively on some of the other teams’ ‘key guys’ during this run.
“They may not get the steal, the block, or the point but their impact is felt. Our guys that do not play much right now are constantly talking on the bench, screaming out plays, cheering for their teammates, etc. Those things go a long way with a team and it’s a huge factor.”
Photo by HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD