OFA Boys bounce back from losses with two straight wins

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RISING UP- OFA Senior forward Chris Backa scored 15 points in a 47-31 win over Presbyterian Christian on Tuesday, January 30. Photo by Matthew Roy.

By Jesse Brooks

Despite experiencing back-to-back losses to Jackson Prep and Columbia Academy last weekend, the Oak Forest Academy boys basketball team started this week off with two consecutive wins. With an overall record of 16-7, the Yellow Jackets have their sights set on building momentum for a postseason run.

“We have had to change a good bit within our system offensively and also defensively the last 6 games, but the guys are still playing hard,” said OFA Coach Curtis Matherne. “Our approach at the end is to be the most prepared, the hardest working, and play with the most togetherness. We preach the small things all year, now is to time to make sure every slightest detail is performed and not forgotten.”

Matherne admits that the Jackets’ win ratio is not as consistent as earlier in the season, but says that his players are working extremely hard against tough competition as they are near the end of the MAIS AAAA Div. 1 schedule. He praised their ball movement and the fact that some players are contributing more now that their confidence is up.

One such player that seems to have been awarded the green light is freshman guard Jaden Collura who has seen an increased role off the bench this January. On Tuesday, January 23, Collura scored a season high 22 points in a 57-47 road victory over Parklane Academy in McComb, Mississippi. Senior guard Janero Porter also contributed 16 points in the Parklane win.

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THE NEW SURGE- Freshman guard Jaden Collura have given OFA a major lift in outside shooting. He scored 22 point in a 57-47 win over Parklane Academy on January 23. Photo by Matthew Roy.

Collura also led the Jackets with 17 points in their 56-33 win over Bowling Green on Monday, January 29. Collura, Carter Blanchard and Jon Jovi all knocked down 3-pointers to build a commanding 28-12 lead with about five minutes remaining in the first half against Bowling Green. OFA led by 36-14 after senior forward Chris Backa hit a shot from beyond the arc with 30 seconds before the intermission. Backa also looked strong on the boards and scoring in the lane as he totaled 11 points. Porter also contributed 11 points in the win.

“We will continue to look to find places in games to pressure and play fast paced, but also slow it down and grind it out when needed,” Matherne said.

OFA brought that mindset into a conference game with Presbyterian Christian at home on Tuesday, January 30, and the Jackets pulled off a 47-31 victory. Porter led the Jackets with 16 points, and Backa was second in command with 15 points.

OFA will hit the road on Friday to take on Madison-Ridgeland Academy for their last conference game in Madison, Mississippi. Tipoff will take place around 7 p.m.

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Independence boys eye taking District 9-2A title Tuesday night

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BE READY- Reserve guard Jaden Howard hit five 3-pointers on Wednesday, January 24 to help lift Independence to a 64-61 victory over Varnado. File photo by Matthew Roy.

By Jesse Brooks

The Independence Tigers have made a case for being the best boys basketball program in Tangipahoa Parish by compiling a 16-2 overall record going into the final week of the the regular season. The Tigers now have the opportunity to seal up the District 9-2A Championship with if they defeat Amite a second time Tuesday night.

Leading the charge for Independence is senior forward Melvin Baker who has scored 20 or more points in eight consecutive games, and has done the same feat in 11 out of the last 12 games.

In addition to Baker’s consistent scoring, the Tigers are finding lift from members of the supporting cast. In a home game against Varnado on Wednesday, January 24, Baker scored 20 points to lead the Tigers. However, the the lift to earn a 64-61 victory came from reserve guard Jaden Howard who hit five shots beyond the arc for a total of 15 points.

On Friday, January 26, the Tiger defeated district opponent Northlake Christian for a second time with a final score of 58-30. Baker led all scorers with 24 points and junior guard DeAngelo Gaines also contributed 22 points.

Despite falling to Amite 44-35 in the Tangipahoa Parish Tournament in December, the Tigers held off a second half rally to defeat the Warriors 59-50 in their gym, on January 12 to solidify a district lead. Winning a second matchup would mean that the Tigers lock up the district title. Even if Independence were to lose their final regular season game to Pine (0-5 district), they would hold a tie-breaker over Amite.

Orgeron hosts Sopsher family and other Tangi products for LSU visit

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CENTER OF ATTENTION- Amite Warrior Ishmael Sopsher, the No. 1 DT in the nation, visits LSU with his family last Saturday. His brother Rodney, far right, just finished a season at South Louisiana Community College. Photo submitted by Ishmael Sopsher.

By Jesse Brooks

On Saturday, January 27, LSU Coach Ed Orgeron hosted a double-digit group of recruits for junior day. Representing Tangipahoa Parish were defensive linemen Ishmael and Rodney Sopsher, wide receiver Devonta Lee and Kentwood wide receiver Trey Palmer.

While the evening was an impressive showing by LSU to several home grown prospects, it was the Sopsher family that spent significant time inside of Orgeron’s office after the event.

Sopsher, who is regarded by most as the second best player in the nation, can basically play for any program that he wants. However, he did acknowledge that playing for the Tigers would mean that his hometown of Amite would be just 45 minutes away. He is keeping his options open at the present, but did confirm that Orgeron believes a major upswing for the Tiger program could start with him and others from Tangipahoa Parish.

Sopsher’s former teammate Devonta Smith rocked the nation recently as the wide receiver that caught the game winning touchdown for the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship. Shyheim Carter, a top prospect from Kentwood’s 2015 LHSAA 1A State Championship, also plays for Alabama’s defensive secondary.

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HOME GROWN- (from left) Kentwood WR Trey Palmer, Amite DL Ismael Sopsher and Amite WR Devonta Lee. Photo submitted.

Another current Warrior with plenty of national attention is Lee who has the potential earn time on the field as a freshmen with any program. Lee is a physical receiver at 6’3 and 200 lbs., a contrast to Kentwood’s Palmer who run a 4.48 in the 40. If the trio of of Sopsher, Palmer and Lee all were to commit to the same program there is potential for Tangipahoa Parish to be placed on the highest stages of competition for years to come.

 

Lakeshore QB Penton verbally commits to Southeastern Louisiana

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CLOSE TO HOME- A Class of 2018 standout, Lakeshore QB Chris Penton has verbally committed to Southeastern Louisiana. Photo by Herb Gomez.

UPDATE: As of 2:49 p.m. Fox Sports reports Tulane offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo has taken the head coaching job at Southeastern Louisiana.

By Jesse Brooks

Despite Head Coach Ron Roberts leaving Southeastern Louisiana to fill the defensive coordinator vacancy at Louisiana-Lafayette, the Lions are picking up Lakeshore quarterback Chris Penton according to the athlete’s announcement today on Twitter.

Penton is regarded as the best quarterback in LHSAA 4A this past season, leading the Lakeshore Titans to the State Championship where they fell 48-26 to Edna Karr, ending an incredible undefeated streak at 16-1 overall.

The 2017 season was a dramatic turnaround for the Titans out of Mandeville, improving from a 5-5 regular season record in 2016.

In 2017, Penton completed 211 of 314 passes for a total of 3,790 yards in the air and 43 touchdowns which qualified him as the leading passer of the New Orleans Metro-Area this season. The 6’0 and 185 lbs. quarterback also totaled 4,159 All-Purpose Yards and eight rushing touchdowns. His combined total of 51 touchdowns his senior year was more than any player in the state of Louisiana.

As a head coaching candidate has yet to emerge for the Lions, the Louisiana Sportswriter’s Association 4A Offensive Player of the Year is excited to wear the green and gold.

“Big thanks to Coach Graves, Coach Stevens and Coach Lace for the opportunity. Let’s go get some rings!” Penton shared on social media.

 

An open letter to DeMarcus Cousins

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DeMarcus Cousins at Pelicans Media Day. Photo by Jesse Brooks.

By Jesse Brooks
From @BourbonStShots

You don’t know me, but I have probably seen almost every game you have ever played while wearing a jersey with “New Orleans” or “Pelicans” across the chest. Occasionally, I may miss a game here and there because of working on other assignments, but even then I’m streaming games, following play-by-play on Twitter or even watching game film if I can’t be in the Smoothie King Center or in front of my television.

What I’m trying to say is that…

CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Local high school basketball round up

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OVER THE TOP- Independence senior swingman Melvin Baker’s consistent play has helped the Tigers take a lead in District 9-2A. Photo by Matthew Roy.

By Jesse Brooks

Here late in January we are nearing the end of high school basketball season. This year, we have seen an exceptional year from both girls and boys programs and it should be an interesting race down the stretch when the district champions are crowned.

Let’s take a look at the some of the best storylines this season as we near the finish line before the postseason begins.

Ponchatoula 

Girls- The 25-3 Lady Wave currently hold the hottest win-streak in Tangipahoa Parish right now at 10-0. They lead District 6-5A with a 7-0 record and recently displayed an impressive 63-23 performance over district opponent Northshore last week. On Tuesday, January 23, the Lady Wave will face hosting rival Hammond.

Hammond

Girls– The Lady Tors currently hold a 12-9 overall record and are second place in District 6-5A with a 4-2 record. They turned heads recently with a 82-49 win over Covington. Getting a win over rial Ponchatoula on Tuesday would be a big statement for the program.

Independence

DSC_1985Boys- At 12-2, the Tigers are easily the best boys program in Tangipahoa Parish and may even feature the best player in the parish, versatile forward Melvin Baker. The Tigers just missed winning the parish tournament with a 44-35 loss to Amite, but have improved since then to capture the District 9-2A lead with a 3-0 record. Baker had a 23 point total in a 59-58 victory over Varnado last week.

St. Thomas Aquinas 

Girls- The Lady Falcons lead District 10-2A with a 3-0 record and hold a solid 16-8 record overall. They earned wins over Doyle and Springfield last week, and freshman Jade Brumfield has been a top scoring option for them this season.

Boys- The Falcons are consistent with a 12-8 overall record, and they are currently in second place after Doyle in the District 10-2A standings at 2-1. Justin Tomas and crew had a big 55-32 win over Springfield on Friday, January 19, but are now looking to bounce back from a 50-45 loss to Doyle last night.

Loranger

Girls- The squad led by Jamaya Mingo-Young is closing up another high flying season as they are currently cruising through District 7-3A with a 5-0 record. They recently beat district rival Albany 52-43.

Albany

Girls- The Lady Hornets are expect to finish second in district, but have turned in an impressive 19-5 overall record so far. Despite being overshadowed by rival Loranger, this is a team that can make a lot of noise after entering the postseason.

Oak Forest Academy

Girls– The Lady Jackets are a steady 12-6 overall in MAIS competition with Caylon Brabham as their offensive and defensive anchor down-low. Their recent wins this month include Madison-Ridgeland Academy, Presbyterian Christian and Parklane Academy. They face Parklane again on Tuesday.

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Boys- The Jackets started the season hot, but have struggled some conference play in MAIS AAAA Div. 1. They hold a 14-4 overall record and still look good for the postseason with a 3-3 conference record. The team will look to rally behind senior point guard Janero Porter to close out the regular season. They take on Parklane Academy on Tuesday, January 23.

 

Amite

Girls- The Lady Warrior winning tradition still rings true as they lead District 9-2A with a 4-0 record. The Girls are 13-6 overall and hold an 8-0 win-streak currently. This month they captured a 77-51 victory over rival Independence and a 72-21 win over district opponent Pine.

Boys- The Warriors have shown a lot of promise this season but can’t seem to get over the .500 hump, and are currently with a 10-10 overall record. They are 3-1 in district with their only loss being to Independence. After defeating Pine 59-29 last Friday, the Warriors look to build momentum on the road this Wednesday, January 24 against Northlake Christian.

Despite Hawks loss, recent stretch of games prove Pelicans still deserve your support

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By Jesse Brooks
From @BourbonStShots

On January 1, The Advocate published an op-ed by New Orleans Pelicans beat writer Scott Kushner that explained why fans of the franchise deserved better than what has currently been offered.
Considering that the Pelicans have only won one playoff series in the last 15 years, and have displayed nothing but inconsistency since adopting their “win now” philosophy, there is a lot to agree with in Kushner’s piece. The mainstay fans have waited for greatness in the Anthony Davis, noting the potential in his rare talent, but rather than unifying the city and Gulf Coast region the franchise has only done well enough to occasionally check in on their smartphones.

In the mind of a local fan that has never completely bought in, keeping the Pelicans at a ……

FOR THE REST OF THIS POST FOLLOW THIS LINK HERE.

St. Helena RB Griffin commits to Itasca CC

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A NEW HOME- St. Helena senior running back Jeremy Griffin is taking his talents to Itasca CC in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Photo by Matthew Roy. 

By Jesse Brooks

After a successful football career at St. Helena College & Career Academy, running back Jeremy Griffin will suit up for Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minnesota next fall.

“I would like to thank God for blessing me with another opportunity to play football once again,” Griffin Tweeted out on Thursday, January 18. “Also I would like to thank my family, my coaches, friends and teammates for pushing me to be good at this game we call football.”

Griffin will get a chance to try to provide offensive help to a team that finished with a 2-8 record last season. Griffin brings a winning mentality to the program and a shifty, but powerful, style into the run game.

Griffin has proved to be valuable in the red zone and known for a big play ability.

Itasca CC is a member of Region 13 in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Pelicans Davis and Cousins selected as NBA All-Star Western Conference starters

PELICAN PAIR- Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins, who make up the starting frontcourt of the New Orleans Pelicans, have been named Western Conference starters for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game that will be held in Los Angeles on February 18. File photos by Jesse Brooks

By Jesse Brooks

The NBA has announced its starting lineups for each conference in the NBA All-Star Game, and New Orleans Pelicans big men Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins will be in that lineup on February 18 in Los Angeles.

Despite an up and down season for the Pelicans, Davis and Cousins have flourished together in a NBA that is trending towards smaller lineups. Davis and Cousins rank Top 10 of all NBA players in both scoring and rebounding categories. Davis averages 26.7 ppg and 10.5 rpg while Cousins is putting up 25.3 ppg and 12.7 rpg.

Davis also currently holds a player efficiency rating of 28.81, the NBA’s fifth best just under Steph Curry.

The selection is the fourth of Cousins’ career, and a fifth for Davis. In 2014, Davis was chosen to replace an injured Kobe Bryant in what would be Commissioner Adam Silver’s first action since taking over for David Stern.

Independence Boys hold off Amite’s second half rally for win

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LOCK DOWN- Independence guard Genord Perry had five steals in the first half of the win against rival Amite. He finished with 14 points total. Photo by Matthew Roy.

By Jesse Brooks

AMITE- The Independence boys basketball team (11-2 overall) is now 3-0 in District 9-2A after defeating rival Amite 59-50 on Friday, January 12. Senior forward Melvin Baker produced another standout performance, scoring a total of 27 points and providing four blocks on defense.
The Tigers, who lost to Amite in the Parish Tournament, began their revenge campaign by jumping out to a 23-7 lead after the first quarter of play. Baker earned 17 points in the first quarter that included a slam dunk, a mid-range jumper, a behind the back layup and a pull-up 3-pointer while running the point.
Tiger guard Genord Perry, who finished with 14 points, also did is part to build the early lead in the first half by grabbing five steals that started fast break scoring opportunities on the other end. As the Warriors were on their heels, the Tigers found balance as Jaden Howard and Deangelo Gaines both hit 3point shots early in the second quarter. Near the end of the first half, Baker hit a shot from beyond the arc that contributed to a 38-14 halftime lead for the Tigers.
However, Warriors came out of intermission to go on an 8-0 run that made things too close for comfort for the Tigers.
“Our defense was better in the half court for the first half,” said Tigers Coach Ace Misita. “The problem in the second half was bad decision making and trying to force the issue. Turning the ball over led to their points. We can’t do that against a team like Amite. They are too talented and too well coached.
Despite being down 48-28, Amite kept chipping away. A bucket with contact by Devonta Lee, and a floater for Deron Edwards, capped off an 8-0 run for the Warriors as the Tigers called timeout with 5:51 and their lead cut to 48-36. Dajavorious Downing continued the run by getting back-to-back fast break buckets to trail 50-41.
After Warrior center Tyrus Wheat scored a layup with contact, Downing came up big again by nailing a 3-pointer inside of two minutes to go to cut the score to 58-50. However, The Tiger offense was able to hold possession long enough to kill about 30 seconds off of the clock, crucial for closing out the Tiger victory.
The loss makes Amite tied with Northlake Christian for second place in district at 2-1 while Independence is the sole leader. The Warriors will face NLC on Tuesday, January 16 for their next matchup.
Also on Tuesday, the Tigers will travel to Pine for their next contest.