Rams tough semi foe for determined Raiders

WEBB GEM: DeCedric Webb glides to the basket in Huntington’s quarterfinal win at home last Friday night.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

After Huntington’s emotional 69-55 victory over Beau Chene last Friday in the quarterfinals of the LHSAA Class 4A Boys’ Basketball playoffs, DeCedric Webb said the Raiders want to win the state title “for Devin.”

“Everything we do is for Devin,” Webb said of Devin Myers, his teammate and first cousin who was fatally shot the day before.

If Webb and his Huntington Raiders team are to accomplish that feat, they must first accomplish a daunting task. Huntington (19-4) meets top-seeded George Washington Carver of New Orleans (31-5) in the semifinals today at noon at the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles. Eleanor McMain (23-7) and Edna Karr (30-5), both of New Orleans, face off in the other semifinal this afternoon.

The state championship game is Saturday afternoon.

“We played them a couple of years ago and it was a great game,” Huntington coach Mack Jones says of the Raiders’ 65-61 loss to the Rams in the quarterfinals of the 2020 playoffs. Jones saw then that Carver’s Solomon Washington was a special talent.

Now in his senior season, Washington has developed into one of the best players in the nation. When MaxPreps released “Best High School Basketball Player in All 50 States” in November,

Solomon was the selection from Louisiana.

Solomon, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, averages 14.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. The Texas A&M signee leads a Carver team that is averaging 65.5 points while allowing just 48.4 points per game.

He also leads a team that is on a mission. After battling through three lead changes in the final three minutes of last year’s championship game, Carver fell to McMain by one point (49-48) when Corey Chest scored the winning point from the free-throw line with 0.7 seconds remaining. The fact that Carver could possibly face McMain again for the title makes returning to the championship game even more enticing for the Rams.

“They have a lot of athleticism,” Jones says of the Rams, whose only two in-state losses this season (to Edna Karr and McMain) were later avenged. The other three losses were to Duncanville (Texas), which is ranked No. 2 in the country by MaxPreps, and teams from Nevada and Arkansas. “They are well-coached and have a number of players who will play at the next level. It will take a great effort (to beat them).”

Preparing for such a daunting task is one thing. Facing a team of that caliber while trying to play through grief is another. There have been plenty of tears since last week’s devastating news, but there have also been some laughs.

“We’ve been telling some jokes about Devin,” says Jones. “That’s the key to me – to smile with everything that’s going on. There’s so much going on (in the world today) to be sad about, so we need to find something to smile about. Basketball is a healing mechanism for a lot of these guys. It’s their comfort zone. Yes, it’s been a struggle. It’s an uphill battle but basketball gives them a way of expressing themselves.”

When it comes down to it, according to Jones, it’s the kind of game you would expect at this point of the season.

“These are two teams who have played each other before. It’s the playoffs. You’ve played a lot of games by now. You’ve probably seen every offense and every defense they can throw at you. What it comes down to is who can make the fewest mistakes.”

It’s Huntington’s fourth Top 28 semifinal appearance (2000, 2008, and 2009) and the Raiders are looking for their first semifinal win, despite being top-seeded in their last two trips. District 1-4A has a team in the state final four for the seventh consecutive year.

Photo by JOHN PENROD

Raiders with the broken hearts: Huntington pushes through

 

Sad endings, one senseless, one inevitable, both heartbreaking