Northwood Gators gain much-needed experience future in first trip to Marsh Madness in 18 years
LAKE CHARLES — There has been a lot to be excited about for Northwood basketball team.
Last week, the Lady Gators made the LHSAA Marsh Madness state tournament and were a quarter away from winning their first title. Tuesday, the Gators (14-10)made their first trip to the Boys Marsh Madness since 2003.
Even though Northwood lost 86-70 to White Castle in the Class 1A semifinals, it was thankful of the journey to get there.
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“We had a good year and like everyone else, it’s been a rough year with practice breaks and missed games,” Gators coach John Howe said. “The boys worked hard and done everything I asked them. There’s two or three games I wish we could get back, but the boys worked really hard this year and I’m real proud of them.”
When both basketball teams earned their spots to the state tournament, the other was there to celebrate with them when they won.
“The school has been excited (of both of us) and there’s been great support from our community starting with the girls,” Howe said. “Every now and then, somebody would come by me and say, ‘Coach, no pressure. The girls won one, so you have to win one.’ The community, school and administration have really been excited and supporting us 100 percent. I think its good for both programs.”
Most of Northwood’s players were not born during its last trip to the Top 28, so for seniors such as Cameron Telsee and Denzel Baines, it was special.
Telsee had a team-high 20 points, while Baines had a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds as they rallied the Gators, who fell behind by as much as 25, to cut the deficit to 11.
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“I’ve been wanting to (play in the Top 28) every year since I’ve been in high school,” Telsee said. “Just putting the effort, you can come back from it. I just had to put my head down and keep fighting.”
“I told them last year was kind of a blur because I didn’t know them really well and we made it to the second round,” Howe said. “What I preached to them was when we finish the regular season, there’s five games (to win a title). I love these seniors, I have four that’s going to leave us, but three sophomores that play a lot. This is going to really help them.”
One of those players is Omarion “Diddy” Layssard, who averaged 18 points and 5 rebounds during the season and scored 17 points Tuesday.
He returns with fellow sophomores Johnathan Barron and Randarius Morris. The trio combined for 48 points per game this season.
“This gives me the experience knowing that I’ve got to do it and I can’t underestimate these teams,” Layssard said. “We have to come ready to play.”