Rebels seek 4th crown, eye Lakeview

Published 11:45 pm Friday, March 14, 2014


LAPLACE — Given the tear Riverside has been on heading into today’s Class 2A state championship game, the team winners of 27 straight contests, it might be easy for some to dismiss Lakeview as just one last stepping stone en route to another Rebels’ coronation.

But coach Timmy Byrd said he, nor his team, will make that mistake. 

“On any given night, they’re as good as a Top 4 team in the state,” said Byrd. “Talent-wise, there may not be a better team out there, one that’s as deep as they are.”

The Gators’ resume is an impressive one. Lakeview has won 15 straight games and the team plays at a breakneck pace, averaging 78 points per game this season. Lakeview’s only losses this season have come to a 27-4 Arcadia team that’s beaten them in two games, an 18-12 5A Southwood team and a 28-6 4A Peabody team. Peabody split with Lakeview, which took its win by 27 in its season opener at home. Lakeview holds an 18 point win over 3A semifinalist Bossier.

The Gators’ calling card is great size. Each Gators starter stands over 6-foot-2 and Lakeview brings strong bigs off the bench as well and as Byrd points out, all are athletic.

“Their big guys can move,” said Byrd. “We probably haven’t played a more athletic team.”

Offensively, Lakeview is led by its “Tay and Tray” backcourt, point guard Tay Hardy and shooting guard Travion Kirkendoll. Hardy is coming off of a 28 point performance in the team’s semifinal win over St. James. He leads Lakeview with an average of 19 points per game. Kirkendoll averages 18 a game. Six Gators average in double-figures. 

On the Rebels end of things, Malik Crowfield leads the way offensively with 18 points and 12 rebounds per game. Julien averages 14 points and nine assists per game. Herb McGee (14 points, eight rebounds, four steals) and Jordan Andrews (12 points, eight rebounds, four steals) wreak havoc defensively. 

Riverside went 8-1 this season against teams that advanced to the Top 28 and 4-1 against teams that advanced to the state championship (University Lab, Landry-Walker, Country Day and Scotlandville). The Rebels have coasted through the postseason, winning by margins of 62, 27, 53 and 49. 17 of its last 18 wins have been by double figures. 

Lakeview will enter the game as a clear underdog, something Lakeview coach Josh Hancock acknowledged the Gators can use. 

“All season long, we’ve been two and they’ve been one,” said Hancock, in his second season as Lakeview coach. “We use it as motivation. Every team wants to be number one. That’s our goal as well.”

Hardy seemed to echo that.

“I’m very excited (to play Riverside),” he said. “We want to come out and show that we can play with any team in the state.”

 It figures to be an up-tempo game. Riverside has scored 90 points or more in six of the last seven games, and Lakeview rarely slows the pace. 

“Rebounding is a big key,” said Byrd. “We have to win that battle or come out even, even though they’re bigger than us.”

One thing Byrd isn’t concerned with is his team’s mental makeup. He said Lakeview “wins a lot of games based on the intimidation factor,” but he doesn’t believe his players will fall prey to that.

“We’ve got some real street fighters on this team, some winners. It’s a unique bunch,” said Byrd. “I don’t see us backing down at all.”