By RODRICK ANDERSON, Special to the Journal
LAKE CHARLES — The Huntington Raiders’ dreams of a state title, capping a season of success jarred by tragedy, were rudely rejected Wednesday afternoon in the Class 4A semifinals in the LHSAA state boys basketball tournament at Burton Coliseum.
Six days after starting guard Devin Myers was shot and killed in Shreveport, the No. 4 Raiders came out wearing shirts honoring their fallen teammate and jumped out to an early lead, but No. 1-ranked George Washington Carver quickly took command, swatting away shots with regularity in a dominant 84-35 victory.
“These young men have endured a whole lot,” Huntington head coach Mack Jones said. “My hat is off to Carver High School. I thought they played well. I could say about it being tough for us also, but Carver had a lot to do with that today.”
“It has been quite a journey. Everyone starts off every season trying to make the Top 28. I am proud of my guys for our efforts. It has been a tough district that we played in. We are just proud not just to represent our district but to represent the city of Shreveport. Our guys did a great job of representing the city of Shreveport.”
Huntington (22-6) made its first Top 28 state semifinal appearance since 2009, and fourth in school history, in the wake of the death of Myers, a much-admired junior student-athlete.
After the game, Jones huddled the Raiders together one more time on the court.
“It is about having character, win or lose,” Jones said. “I was telling someone the other day that is that the biggest thing I want these guys to do is smile again. That has been our motto — being able to smile again. There were a lot of smiling faces the last couple of days. Winning is one thing, but I want these guys to win at life. We are trying to make sure they win at life.
“We still have a tough road to go through the next couple of days, another week. We ask for everybody’s prayers. It has been tough, but we have been surrounded as a city, faculty, staff, and just people calling and outpours (of support) from everywhere. At the end of the day when we leave here, it is about trying to mold young guys to be men. We took a punch. It is not about how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up. We are going to get up from this.”
Senior guard Rayshun McCullar thanked his teammates.
“I was just telling them to keep your heads up,” McCullar said. “I appreciate you playing and being there for me the whole season and through the rough times. I just wanted to thank them for that.”
Junior guard De’Kaveon Taylor was proud of how the Raiders competed despite the loss.
“We wanted to come out with the win, but at the same time I am proud because we have been through a lot this season,” Taylor said. “To still make it right here, a lot of teams would love to be here. But we still made it through all the circumstances. I really wanted to get the win, but I am proud of my teammates and my coaches too for us even making it here (after) going through whatever we were going through.”
McCullar opened the scoring with a 3-pointer 50 seconds into the game. But the powerhouse Rams (28-2) quickly lived up to billing. They closed out the quarter on a 19-2 run and never looked back.
“We have been through some tough times, but basketball is basketball,” Jones said. “This is when we get away from a lot of other things. We hung in there for a little while. Carver is a great basketball team, and my hat’s off to their program.”
Carver swingman Solomon Washington, a Texas A&M signee, had a double-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks, along with several monster dunks. Also in double figures for the Rams were Jaylon Hicks (20), Dorian Finister (19), and Laurence Nathan (11).
Cameron Evans led Huntington with eight points, and DeCedric Webb added seven.
Photo by RICK HICKMAN, Lake Charles American Press