White Castle faces tough challenge in state title game

Tryve Brackin
White Castle's Ronald Martin and North Central's Nathaniel Francis await a rebound at the goal in Wednesday's Class 1A semi-final battle at the Lafayette Cajundome. White Castle meets longtime rival Southern Lab in the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday.

White Castle High’s Bulldogs must be at their sharpest Saturday afternoon at the Top 28 Boys’ State Basketball Tournament as they face a tall and strong Southern Lab team for the Class 1-A title.

While the Bulldogs turned back top-ranked North Central High Wednesday night (March 9) by a 53-46 score in a 1-A semifinals match, Southern Lab’s Kittens beat Grambling Lab 46-29 in a prior game.

The Southern Lab defense shutdown 26-6 Grambling’s offense, holding the North Louisiana club to a record low 20.8 percent shooting from the field. Grambling took a narrow 7-4 lead in the first quarter, but went cold on the offense end as the tall inside lineup of the SL club forced numerous mistakes on drives to the hoop and the foes could not hit any of their outside shots. Southern went on a 18-0 run in the second quarter and Grambling could never catch up.

Although White Castle showed outstanding defense and quickness in their win over 29-5 North Central, they will face a much taller Southern Lab lineup in Saturday’s final.

Lab features a tall and strong front line of 6-6, 280-lb. post player Ezekial Alsander, 6-6 Melvin Lee, and 6-5 Derrick Mckee. The Kittens also feature a trio of quick outside shooters and ball-handlers in Lance Bernard (the team’s leading scorer with a 21.7 average), Trent Flowers, and Carealius Burrell.

Southern shot better from the field (43.9 percent) than Grambling did from the free throw line in their semifinal match (41.2 percent). White Castle has to be sharp on both sides of the court.

Another warning for the Bulldogs is the fact they have never beaten Southern Lab head-to-head in a title match in at least a trio of championship meetings.

The challenge is on for the Bulldogs, but Coach Ronald Johnson noted after the Castlemen knocked off top-ranked North Central: “I believe in my players. They do not give up and fight to the end.”

The Bulldogs did just that against North Central, hitting 7 of 11 at the free throw line, while forcing four NCHS turnovers and holding them scoreless over the final 2:09 of the contest to overcome a four-point deficit to win by seven.