Jaden Carrier (Vinton HS)

Pickering’s Deshawn Jackson (4) battles Vinton’s Jaden Carrier (11) for a rebound during a District 5-2A game on February 18. Vinton will host Amite today in the bi-district round of the Class 2A playoffs.

Class 2A

No. 24 Amite at

No. 9 Vinton, 6:30 p.m.

The Vinton Lions have won three consecutive District 5-2A championships, but the one thing that has eluded them over that time is success in the postseason.

The No. 9 Lions (21-5) will host No. 24 Amite (17-16), the team that knocked them out in the first round last season. The Lions are preparing for every possibility as they go for their first playoff win since 2008. The game will start at 6:30 p.m. today.

“It is a different team,” Vinton head coach Keith Kelley said. “They had a lot of graduates and a lot of kids that went on to play football in college and other things. 

“They have a different coach. They play some man and zone (defense). It all depends on what they think fits the situation best. We are going to be ready for anything they can throw at us.”

Amite beat Vinton 63-55 last year while Rapides upset the Lions 62-54 in 2018.

Kelley said controlling the defensive boards will be essential to slowing down the Warriors.

“We have to rebound on the defensive end,” Kelley said. “They have a couple of kids that are quick, and we have to force them to shoot over us. 

“Everybody has to block out and rebound. If we can rebound, that gives us a great opportunity to be successful.”

Guard Drew Heinen, the Lions’ only senior, has been Vinton’s top scorer this season at more than 20 points a game, but the Lions’ offense is not one-dimensional. Deshaun Bias, Jaden Carrier and Belquin Ceasar are averaging in double-figures as well. 

“Over the course of the year, we have had four or five guys that have been averaging double figures,” Kelley said. “Drew has had some big nights, but we have had others too. 

“We always have four or five guys in double-figures each night. It has really been balanced.”

Kelley complimented his players’ willingness to play anywhere on the floor. It is something that has allowed the Lions to continually reload its starting lineup each season.

“The first year we were undefeated (in district) with Kevin Anderson and Chris Bendi,” Kelley said. “Last year, we had Drew, who had a really good year, and Sam Ardoin. 

“We are doing an excellent job of replacing roles. The kids have been really good at doing whatever is necessary. Some kids don’t want to play the high post, but our kids do whatever is needed. They have bought into the system. They have bought into playing hard. Why change it if it isn’t broken.”

Class 3A

#23 Westlake at 

#10 St. Martinville, 7 p.m.

The Westlake Rams have had some definite high-points this year such as beating a pair of 5A teams and a win over No. 14 Iowa in its first district game. But consistency has been the problem, and it is something the Rams hope to find as the playoffs start today.

No. 23 Westlake will play at No. 10 St. Martinville today at 6:30 p.m.

“It about us being consistent, especially in our shooting,” Westlake head coach Doug Morris said. “We have been up and down in shooting. 

“Our defense has been pretty good all year long. The offense has been good too, we just haven’t been able to shoot the ball well at times. There have been games where we have had four-minute runs we didn’t put the ball in the hole. It is hard to bounce back from that deal.”

The Rams have seen an improvement since junior guard Cullen Hamilton returned from a broken hand. Since his return, the Rams lost by four points to Jennings and beat Lake Charles College Prep and South Beauregard to close out the regular season. It has given the Rams three consistent offensive weapons along with junior Novon Gray (10 ppg) and sophomore Jamaal Guillory (18.2 ppg). Hamilton has averaged 13.3 points a game since his return. Westlake averaged 61.6 points in its last three games, a 13.4 point improvement over its previous four games.

“Having Cullen Hamilton back has helped us,” Morris said. “He has only been back in the last three games. 

“He has been helping us score. He had been out since the first of January. Having him back has helped the depth.”

Morris said the Rams will have to work hard to eliminate St. Martinville’s height advantage.

“They are big and athletic,” Morris said. “We are going to have to play really good on defense. 

“We have to keep them off the boards. If we do that, we can have a good shot. We are just a small team, so we have to do all the little things perfect to have a good shot against a team like that.”

Class 5A

#32 Sam Houston at

#1 NCHS, 6:30 p.m.

In its first playoff game since 1999, the No. 32 Sam Houston Broncos will head north to take on the top-ranked Natchitoches Central Chiefs. The Chiefs (27-3) have won 13 of their last 14 games.

Natchitoches Central has been one of the top Class 5A teams in the state since 2012. 

The Chiefs won a state title in 2016, the last time its was the No. 1, and in 2014. 

Natchitoches Central was the runner up in 2015 to Scotlandville, lost in the quarterfinals in 2017 and 2019 and reached the semifinals in 2018. 

Sam Houston (16-15) beat Barbe 63-44 to close out the regular season for its first winning season since going 19-11 in 2011-2012.