The Bossier Bearkats consider themselves as much a family as a team.
That’s what helped them persevere when they lost two starters at the end of the regular season. That’s what helped them keep winning in the playoffs.
And that’s a big reason why the Bearkats were able to celebrate a Class 3A state championship on the Burton Coliseum court Saturday afternoon in Lake Charles.
“It’s a great feeling,” Bossier senior guard Cody Deen said. “There is no better feeling in the world right now.”
Bossier, the No. 1 seed, defeated No. 2 Wossman 62-61 in a nervewracking nailbiter played in front of no fans because of Friday’s order by Gov. John Bel Edwards banning large gatherings of 250 or more in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“I wish our fans could have been there with us,” said Nick Bohanan, who won his first state championship as a head coach in just his third season at the helm. “I know they were there in our hearts the whole way.”
Bossier finished 35-3 with a 23-game winning streak. Wossman, the No. 2 seed, finished 33-4.
“The family aspect has always been there,” said Deen, who scored 21 points and had seven rebounds. “When I got to Bossier my 10th-grade year it was a family that welcomed me with open arms. Us being a family really helped. We knew each other on the court. We knew what we like to do, what spots we like to get to. When you’re a family you know how to communicate with one another and that makes it easier.”
Deen and the Bearkats were also motivated by last year’s disappointing 61-58 loss to Breaux Bridge in the Class 4A championship game.
“It was a group that didn’t want to be denied,” Bohanan said. “They were going to continue to fight. They believed in one another. They believed in our coaching staff. It’s a special bond this group will have forever.”
Bossier and Wossman split regular-season games. Both were close and Bohanan figured Saturday’s would be no different.
“Anytime you play Wossman you know it’s going to be a war,” he said. “They’re going to fight to the end. We’re similar, honestly. We’ve got tough kids. They’ve got tough kids. All three games this year basically came down to the last possession.”
There were 13 lead changes in the first half alone and 23 in the game.
The Bearkats led by as many as seven in the fourth quarter. But Wossman rallied and it was tied at 59 with a minute to play.
Devonte Austin hit a shot to put Wossman up by two. But Tim King answered with a 3-pointer with about 19 seconds left. His shot hit the front of the rim, bounced up and settled back down into the basket.
Wossman’s Brandon Dennis put up a floater inside the lane that circled around the rim and came out. The rebound was a tie ball to Bossier with 0.7 seconds left. The Bearkats still had to inbound the ball. A pass to halfcourt did the job and the clock ran out.
Deen wasn’t surprised Wossman made a run at the end.
“We knew the game wasn’t over,” he said “We were saying it the whole game, ‘It’s not over; it’s not over.’ ” They’re a good team. They’re going to make a comeback. When they did we just stayed calm.”
King, who scored 24 points and had seven rebounds, was named the MVP. Joseph Manning also came up big, making all ten of his free throw attempts.
The Bearkats were 24-of-30 from the line. The Wildcats were 8-of-14.
Manning finished with 12 points and led the Bearkats with eight rebounds.
King hit four 3-pointers and the Bearkats were 6-of-18 from behind the arc. Wossman put up 26 3s and made five.
The Wildcats stayed in it thanks in part to offensive rebounding. They scored 22 second-chance points to Bossier’s eight.
King and Deen were the only Bearkats in Saturday’s game who saw significant playing time in last year’s title game. D’Ante Bell, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, was also a key player in Bossier’s run to the title game both last season and this season. But Saturday he was on the bench after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the regular-season finale.
“It means a lot for these kids,” Bohanan said. “We came up short last year. We graduated eight seniors, then lost two (Otis Smith and Bell) along the way. I know it means a lot to them for all the hard work they’ve put in.”
Bohanan said newcomers like Manning, Cinco Bryant and Lakavin Thomas all stepped up. James Davis and Decamerion Richardson, football stars who didn’t play basketball last season, made significant contributions down the stretch.
They all helped pick up the slack after the loss of Smith and Bell.
The state championship is Bossier’s fourth. The Bearkats won Class 4A titles in 2011 and 2016. Bossier also won the 1960 Class AAA championship.
Bohanan was a part of the Bearkats’ 2011 and 2016 championships as an assistant to Jeremiah Williams.
Now he has one of his own.
“We were blessed and God showed us favor today,” he said. “He allowed us the opportunity to go out there and win one.”
The frustration continued for Wossman, the District 2-3A champion from Monroe.
It was the Wildcats’ fourth runner-up finish in the last five years.
Terrikirris Smith led Wossman with 17 points. Austin added 15 and Nick Traylor 12.