It’s rare, if ever, Walker High and Live Oak have shared a spot at the end of a district race.
After tying for the runner-up spot in District 4-5A, the Wildcats and Eagles will go their separate ways Friday to begin the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
No. 9 Walker (21-7) will host No. 24 Central Lafourche (17-13), while No. 28 Live Oak (13-15) travels to No. 5 Lafayette High (24-4).
Both games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
“We always want that first round game at home,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. “I was kind of hoping to stay in that eighth spot to where you could get the first two at home, but it is what it is. I don’t feel bad where we’re at. We definitely have to take care of business and the road’s going to be a little more difficult and probably have to travel twice to get to Lake Charles.”
Live Oak, which got a big boost with a late-season 64-61 home win over Walker, is headed to postseason for the fourth consecutive season and third straight under coach John Capps.
“We’re down there because of the way we played earlier in the season with injuries and the results we had,” Capps said. “I also feel like we’ve been playing pretty well lately, so I feel like they (Lafayette) didn’t get a good draw either. They probably would have rather played some of these other teams that didn’t finish second in one of their tough districts.”
This will mark the second matchup this season between the two teams and first in three months when Walker took a 77-54 victory during his own holiday tournament on Dec. 28.
The Trojans, who were without a pair of starters during that time, not only finished the regular season with a winning record but were fourth in District 7-5A with a 7-7 record.
“They’ll be a better team than they were back then, and they didn’t play bad in our tournament,” Schiro said of Central Lafourche. “They’re a team at No. 24. They were missing some guys and could have won here and there; you’ve got to be careful because they’re probably better than what you would think of as No. 24 seed. It’s definitely not an easy draw and we’ve got to be ready to play against a team that’s going to be pretty good.”
Schiro praised his team’s resiliency after an uncharacteristic 0-2 start to district play that included back-to-back losses to Scotlandville (70-54) and at Live Oak.
Since then the Wildcats have reeled off three consecutive wins over playoff-bound Central and Zachary, along with arch-rival, Denham Springs, to cement the No. 9 seed which is paired with the Comeaux-Airline winner.
The Wildcats would travel in the second round in either case.
“The first week of district wasn’t a good week,” Schiro said. “You know what you’re getting when you play Scotlandville. They’re a great team. You drop a tough one to them at home and then you on the road at Live Oak who’s been playing well lately. You’ve always played them twice and a tough matchup at their place and they played extremely well and did what they needed to do to win that game.
“We kind of regrouped after that and started playing a lot better,” Schiro said. “I thought we took care of our business on Friday (74-60 win at Zachary). It was a good, competitive game and Zachary’s a good team with great athletes and it’s always tough to play at their place. Going there and playing well gives you a good feeling moving into the playoffs. I guess you could say we got back on track over the last three games.”
Capps has all the respect in the world for Lafayette, winners in 10 of its last 11 games. The Lions, who opened the season 11-0, finished in a tie for the District 3-5A title and won a coin flip with Comeaux to pick up the one power point awarded to the district champion.
He just doesn’t believe with the schedule his Eagles have played, going through the District 4-5A gauntlet and twice facing University High – the No. 2 seed in Division II, Catholic High – No. 3 in Division I – and Lakeshore – No. 10 in Class 4A – his team won’t run into anything they haven’t already seen this season.
“They’re pretty athletic, don’t play a ton of guys and they have two really good guards and a big (6-foot-8) kid,” Capps said. “It’s not an impossible matchup. We’ve played tough people. I don’t think we’re going to be the best team they’ve seen. I don’t think our guys are going to be intimidated. They’re good, don’t get me wrong.
“It will be a tough task to go over there and get a win”, Capps said. “I don’t think the lights are going to be too bright for our guys. They’re not going to be able to do things that we haven’t seen earlier this year at some point in time.”
The Live Oak-Lafayette winner is matched with the Zachary-Woodlawn winner in the regional round.
The Eagles further enchanced their playoff chances Friday with a 64-62 home victory over Central which received a No. 18 seed. They also picked up key wins over Lakeshore, Broadmoor and Walker.
“Credit to the guys, they rose up and beat good people and tried to be the team that I thought we could be,” Capps said. “It’s (postseason play) big for us. I want us to be a program that’s looked at as pretty good and you should expect them to be in the playoffs every year. They’re going to try and do things the right way, be competitive and do the little things.”