Select school basketball makes last stand in L.C.

By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports

Bye bye, Lake Charles.

Adios, Burton Coliseum.

The select schools’ Division I basketball championship  will see no more of you.

Beginning with the 2019-2020 roundball season, the higher seed of the two teams making it to the title game will choose the arena.

There are 13 schools in that division, and none are from Lake Charles. Amen to that.

In the last half-decade, Scotlandville has ruled this division. It did so again this season by handily defeating St. Augustine, 73-53, on March 9.

The LHSAA voted to allow Select (non-public) schools to choose their own championship venues for a number of sports at its January annual meeting. That includes, football, boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball and softball.

If history repeats itself next year, the championship game will likely be played at Southern University, if its facility is available. Hopefully, it won’t be staged in Scotlandville’s gym, where the two finalists would lose money because of the limited size of the arena.

Of the dozen D-I teams eligible to compete in the playoffs (McKinley of Baton Rouge was disqualified for multiple rules violations), eight were from the Greater New Orleans area.

Paul Kelly – De La Salle

New choices for top seeds
The Catholic League representatives – St. Augustine, Brother Martin, Holy Cross, Archbishops Rummel and Shaw, Jesuit and non-Catholic member John Curtis – have choices for a championship site that may include some local college venues.

Because of its close proximity to Covington, St. Paul’s could possibly use Southeastern University if it would become a No. 1 seed. Hammond is a mere 35 miles away and a straight shot on I-12.

The other cities in play are Baton Rouge (Catholic High) and Shreveport (Byrd and Evangel).

Division I has just eight teams in the girls’ playoffs. Mount Carmel, Dominican, Archbishop Chapelle and St. Joseph’s Academy of Baton Rouge are single-sex schools. Byrd, Scotlandville, Evangel and John Curtis are coed schools.

Had the rule allowed this year’s highest seed to choose the championship site in Division II, De La Salle would have been the title host. The game would not have been played at Burton Coliseum, where the No. 2 seeded Cavaliers lost to No. 3 St. Thomas More, 77-72, in two overtimes. How would that game have played out in, say, Fogelman Arena, seating capacity, 4,100, or Lakefront Arena, 10,000 seats?

Would the size of those facilities be more than the schools would require, or would it be more feasible to host championship doubleheaders there, assuming the higher seeds in more than one division are from New Orleans?

It is also likely that the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has hosted the Select schools’ football championships for the last time. The title games will be reduced to just five non-Select class championships.

It will be interesting, if not strange, to see how well the Allstate Sugar Bowl/Prep Classic fares in attendance and revenues with just public schools participating, while the Selects take their title games to places like Tad Gormley or Baton Rouge Municipal Stadium or college facilities that may be available in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Hammond and Shreveport areas.

The future will be different from what prep fans are accustomed to. It will be interesting to see how this comes to pass.

But we would be remiss to ignore three fine coaches who took their teams to the doorstep of Division basketball championships: St. Augustine’s Mitchell Johnson, De La Salle’s Paul Kelly and Mount Carmel’s Jamie Thomatis. Jobs well done, lady and gentlemen.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherld.org.

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