Eagles soar to championship

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2002


RESERVE – It may not have set in yet for the players, but the Reserve Christian School Eagles won their first state championship Saturday.

The victory comes after trips to the Top 28 Tournament in Lafayette the previous two years, when the Eagles fell just short of a Class B championship berth. Adding to the triumph, the 70-57 win came from the fingertips of one of the Eagles’ youngest teams to date, and against nine-time state champions, the Zwolle High School Hawks.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet, maybe in a few days,” said junior guard Frankie Francois. “I’m just glad to be a part of this team.”

“It’s still kind of a far figment, like a dream,” said junior Matt Jackson.

Starting for the Eagles was one of their youngest, but most acclaimed players, Demond “Tweety” Carter. Averaging 22.7 points each game, Carter has garnered a large portion of attention throughout the season, but received his greatest award yet, when he was named the championship game’s most valuable player.

“Tweety took the game over in the third quarter,” said coach Tim Byrd. Carter finished the evening with a total 25 points.

“I’m happy, but without my teammates, none of this would have happened,” commented Carter.

“This is a very special group of young men,” continued Byrd. “I got a lot of compliments in Lafayette about how they conducted themselves.” He said the Eagles remained humble and treated everybody with dignity and resect.

“I am probably more proud of the way they acted off the court,” said Byrd.

“If nothing else, this is a symbol of the excellence we’re striving for in all areas,” said Reserve Christian Principal Philip Brown. He also said he’s received a number of calls and positive feedback from the local community and from Lafayette. “The players represented this area well,” added Brown.

“I’m still in shock,” admitted junior Chris McClain, who was the “sixth man” as a freshman on the 2000 team, which lost in the semifinals. “Our goal was to get the ring. We didn’t want that feeling like we had last year losing in the quarterfinals.”

The Eagles turned their losing memories from the last two Top 28 losses into fuel for their confidence, which combined with their 44-8 record, gave them an added boost against such an intimidating Zwolle team. Before the game, Byrd preached for his players not to worry about what the other team would do, but for the Eagles to only worry about what they could control, which was their performance. The Eagles’ confident attitude worked in their favor even before the opening buzzer. Members of the Eagles agreed the Hawks looked “spooked” and didn’t want to make eye contact with the Eagles when they walked onto the court to warm up.

“We were ranked number one. The other teams we played at the tournament might not say it, but they were scared,” said McClain.

Francois said the Eagles’ intense focus stemmed from their long season and from having the semifinal win in the Cajundome behind them.

“We had the confidence we’d win and we had the advantage,” continued Francois.

“We had been playing big teams all year,” said freshman Marlon Brumfield. “So we knew what we had to do.”

What the Eagles had to do was begin the game with their usual quickness and hold their tempo through all four quarters. Byrd said it’s only when the Eagles are all playing up-tempo, that they are playing their best.

“I am real proud of the kids. They remained focused on the ultimate goal of the season,” said Byrd. He credited McClain for playing an excellent game and said Brumfield and Jackson dominated in the paint.

“And we had great contributions from Dwayne Myers. He came out of no where and had a key block,” Byrd continued. “It’s those kinds of plays that epitomized the season.” He said 11 Eagles took to the court and played well as a team.

However, he admitted he was worried about getting to Lafayette in the two weeks leading up to the Top 28 Tournament. The Eagles seemed to have lost their momentum and were simply going through the motions on the court. “They were playing stagnate,” said Byrd. “But they pulled back together right in time for the playoffs.”

“We limited our turnovers and got into our offense, when we do that, we’re almost unbeatable,” Byrd continued. “This was the first year we had a true point guard. Chris was so solid against the press, other teams could not press us.”

The Zwolle Hawks scored the first basket of the championship game, then tried their full-court press, but the Eagles fired back with a 9-0 run and held the lead for the remainder of the game. Byrd said he threw in a couple of different plays to change up the offense and let the Eagles attack the basket, which showed they did not need to rely on their three-point shots to win.

“This team can play any brand of ball, up-tempo, man, zone, slow. It’s hard to play a team that can do that,” explained Byrd. “Very seldom do you have five guys who can do it all. The scary thing is, they’re so young. Next year they’ll really be hard to handle.”