By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
LAKE CHARLES — It’s something earned, not given, playing for a state championship.
When his first Bossier High School boys’ basketball team was 11-9, coach Justin Collins wasn’t visualizing this day. But the Bearkats have earned the opportunity, which comes this evening at 6 in Burton Coliseum when they square off against Carroll from Monroe for the LHSAA’s Division II Non-Select crown at Marsh Madness.
Today’s contest will be live-streamed on NFHSnetwork.org, a pay-per-view or subscription service, and can be heard for free on KSYR 92.1 FM “The Light” with Travis Shurling calling the game.
Bossier (23-10), seeded fourth, upset top-seeded Wossman on Tuesday, 48-42, in the semifinals. Later that evening, Carroll (25-11), seeded third, surprised local favorite and No. 2 seed Iowa 63-57.
The finalists collided in a tournament on Nov. 23 with Bossier posting a last-minute 59-56 win.
“We made a 3-pointer with about 10-12 seconds left, and they missed their last shot,” says Collins.
The Bearkats and Bulldogs have matched up in the last three seasons, and Bossier’s won the last two. Carroll was the district runner-up to its arch-rival, Wossman.
“They’re the same type of team as Wossman: tough, physical, and they play hard. Everybody on the court can shoot the 3. They’re going to guard you,” says Collins. “Just like Tuesday, we’ve got to bring our hard hats, and our shoulder pads. You’re going to have to fight.”
The Bearkats have displayed that trait in a big way this season, coming together to add to the program’s tradition.
Considering Bossier’s track record, Bearkats supporters have high expectations. If the team doesn’t make the state tournament, it’s a down year.
Bossier is in its seventh state final in a superb run beginning in 2009. The Bearkats are aiming for their fifth state crown, with championship trophies in 2011, 2016 and 2020 sitting alongside one from 1960. They’ve been state runner-ups four times in the last 14 years and reached the semis two more times, including last year.
“The tradition here is second to none. Our community support is second to none,” says Collins. “This year was kinda up in the air. You didn’t know. New players, a new coach, but the support has always been there, and it’s like our sixth man.”
Things seemed grim from the outside in midseason with that 11-9 record. Since, the Bearkats have been nearly perfect.
“We were like the stock market, up and down. We’d win 3-4 in a row, lose 2-3, win 3-4, lose 2-3. But we kept fighting, and we’ve won all but one since,” says Collins. “A tough schedule and tough, coachable kids, that has paid off.”
In a big way, and for all the right reasons, he says.
“We have a good group of kids. Nobody was expecting much from this group, but they’re hard-working, disciplined, and they do everything you ask on the court, off the court and in the classroom. They never say anything to the ref, they never argue with each other. They are coachable, and they want to be coached.”
They’re also “versatile,” says Collins. “We can adjust to the opponent. We can play any style, whatever we come up against.
“I’d say we’re a defensive team, but we do whatever we need to do. If we need to score to win, this group can do it, though. It’s hard to prepare for us.”
With a win this evening, it will be impossible to forget them.
Contact Doug at email@example.com