Bossier High added another chapter to its remarkable history in boys basketball last week.
Chris Davenport’s layup as time expired gave the No. 4 seed Bearkats a 63-61 victory over No. 5 A.J. Ellender in the quarterfnals of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Bossier (25-10) faces No. 1 St. Thomas More (30-7) at the Boys Top 28 Thursday at 1 p.m. at McNeese State’s Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
The winner the winner of the other semifinal between No. 2 Edna Karr (25-12) and No. 3 Washington-Marion (22-7) for the 4A title Saturday night.
This marks the seventh time in the last eight years that Bossier has reached at least the semifinals.
Technically, though, it’s Bossier’s first trip to the Top 28 since the 2012-13 season.
Last year, the Bearkats lost in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs. Two years ago, Bossier made it to the Class 3A semifinals but that year the semifinals were played at regional sites with the boys and girls title games played at the same site during the same week.
The LHSAA went back to the Boys and Girls Top 28 format last season.
“It’s special,” Bossier coach Jeremiah Williams said. “It’s always special to make it there. It’s a credit to our coaching staff and all the work we’ve put in and the efforts of the kids. It kind of culminates the season to have an opportunity to be in the high school final four. We’re excited about it.”
Bossier is back in the semifinals despite moving up to Class 4A this season after four years in Class 3A.
The Bearkats made it to the 3A championship game in 2012 after winning the 4A state title in 2011.
If Bossier can upset St. Thomas More, it will be the school’s sixth title game appearance since 2008.
That’s a record few programs in the state can match.
And unlike some years where there’s a dominant team, that isn’t the case this season.
“We’ve got a good opportunity,” Williams said after the win over Ellender. “We got by a tough team. It’s a great opportunity. We’re excited. We’ve got a shot.”
The Top 28 will be a new experience for most of the Bossier players, including leading scorer Larry Robinson III, a senior.
While Robinson has been the team’s most consistent scorer, junior guard Tyrese English has stepped up. He led the team with 21 points, including three 3-pointers, against Ellender.
Junior forward Antonio Davis grabbed 18 rebounds before fouling out. Davis, who goes by Rudy, will be playing with a heavy heart. His sister, Kenyoua, a 2015 graduate of Bossier and former Lady Kat, passed away Tuesday.
Senior guard Travis Manning, senior guard Donnell Mason, senior guard Quantavious Capers, senior forward Dontaveous Washington, freshman guard Jacoby Decker and Davenport, a junior forward, have all been significant contributors to Bossier’s success.
Decker dished to Davenport for the winning bucket against Ellender.
Williams said Isaiah Wallace, senior Torrian Brocks, junior CJ Jarman and senior Abarreion Johnson have played key roles on the practice scout team helping the Bearkats prepare for games.
St. Thomas More, a private school located in Lafayette, shared the District 4-4A championship with Northside.
The Cougars’ lone district loss was to Northside 42-41. St. Thomas More defeated Northside 79-64 in the regular-season finale and 57-53 in a playoff to determine the district’s No. 1 playoff seed.
The Cougars’ other losses to state teams were to Madison Prep 73-41 in the season opener, Karr 71-67 on Dec. 19, North Caddo 64-48 on Dec. 28 and Chalmette 60-50 on Jan. 8. They lost to St. Pius (Texas) 88-87 on Dec. 5 at a tournament in Houston.
Madison Prep, North Caddo and Karr all made it to the Top 28.
St. Thomas More lost to Plaquemine in the second round last year after reaching the semifinals in 2014.
The Cougars got some revenge on Friday, rallying from a late eighth-point deficit. Will Vincent hit the first of two free throws with 1.7 seconds left in overtime for the margin of victory.
Jonathan Joseph sent the game into OT with a layup with less than two seconds left.
Devante Benjamim has been the Cougars leader on the season, averaging around 15 per game. But he averaged almost 20 per game in the final month of the season, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Defense has been Bossier’s trademark in Williams’ nine seasons as head coach.
The Bearkats will need an outstanding defensive effort against Benjamin and the Cougars to pull off the upset.
If they do, it will add to the school’s already substantial winning tradition. And more history could be made Saturday night.
Russell Hedges is Sports Editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org