(LAKE CHARLES, La.) At St. Paul’s, our athletic traditions trace deep into the past. 106 years, to be precise. However, in that 106 year period, no basketball team has made it as deep as this year’s team, let alone to the semi-finals. Not any team led by the legendary Coach Gene Bennett, or even “Phil Will.” This year’s team, led by Head Coach Stephen Dale, made it all the way to the state championship. Further, it was only Dale’s second year as head coach.
In Lake Charles on Saturday, March 10, the Wolves lost to the Scotlandville Hornets in the LHSAA Division 1 Boys’ Final by a score of 63-40. The Wolves were led in scoring once again by senior Parker Edwards, who only finished with 10 points, going 4 of 10 from the field. Edwards was the main focus of the Hornets defensive effort.
“They had a great defensive game plan, and really took us out of what we like to do,” Dale said, “both schematically and then with Parker just as a personnel matchup.”
The first basket of the game was made by sophomore Bill Leahy, who finished with 8 points. The Hornets took over from there, getting out to a 15-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Maybe you could chalk the slow start up to nerves.
“This is the biggest stage on the last day of the high school basketball season,” Dale said. “I think we all were a little nervous. But once those first couple minutes went by, it was a basketball game and we were just trying to figure out how to put the ball into the basket.”
In the second quarter, the Wolves started to open up their offensive game a little more, but the Hornets persisted, pulling out to a 14-point lead going into halftime.
Edwards felt the blunt force of the Hornets defense, drawing double and triple team coverage the entire game.
“It was tough, just getting denied and getting double and triple teamed,” Edwards said, “But I thought we gave it our best shot, and we ended up short.”
The Hornets star, Mcdonald’s All-American and LSU commit, senior Ja’Vonte Smart dropped in 20 points on 17 shots, making 8. Smart did this despite the Wolves’ best efforts to keep him bottled up.
“A big part of our game plan was to try to double(team) him on certain spots of the floor,” Dale said, “and we tried to get someone other than #2 to beat us because we certainly knew he was capable, and he made us pay for it tonight.”
The Wolves may have lost this one to the Hornets, but the players and coaches alike recognize the history that was made with this appearance in the state championship.
“I think that’s our biggest takeaway from this game,” Dale said. “St. Paul’s has been open for 106 years. No team in the history of this program has ever played in this game, let alone played in the semi-finals. These guys are legends. And they will be legendary for the rest of their lives. Any time they come around St. Paul’s or Covington, people will know that this 2017-18 St. Paul’s team has done something that nobody has ever done.”
St. Paul’s will receive a Marsh Madness banner to hang in “The Gene” to honor the most historic season in the history of St. Paul’s Basketball.
“We’ll proudly hang that Marsh Madness banner in our gym and know that any success that our program has after this is directly attributed to this team and this senior class,” Dale said.
An emotional senior forward Chandler Owenby spoke on how hard work took them to this point.
“We worked really hard to get the program this far,” Owenby said, “and we made it happen. I love these guys to death, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
Edwards also spoke about his time playing for the Wolves.
“We just work really hard, and it’s nice that we showed it,” Edwards said, “and I just hope the younger guys can step up and get back in this position. I’m just so blessed for my four years playing for this team. It hurts that it’s over, but I put my heart in this, and I can’t be disappointed in the result.”