Sugar Bowl tourney boasts stacked field

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2015


WESTWEGO — For the past few years, Riverside has hosted the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic, with athletic director Timmy Byrd hoping to see the competition gain traction as a true measuring stick not just locally, but nationally.

The 2015 edition of the tournament begins today at the Alario Center in Westwego, and if this year’s slate of teams is any indication, Byrd is getting his wish. The Sugar Bowl’s slate of teams is impressive.

A who’s who of boys and girls teams will be locked in competition through the four-day tournament slate, including the No. 1 boys team in America, Montverde Academy (Fla.), featuring LSU signee and consensus No. 1 prep recruit Ben Simmons.

The rest of the boys slate includes defending two-time Class 2A champion Riverside; Natchitoches Central, defending 5A champion;  Karr and Helen Cox, two of the metro area’s top ranked squads; 2014 Class 1A semifinalist Arcadia; Class 4A champion Landry-Walker; perennial 4A contender Salmen; defending Class 1A champion Country Day; 2014 4A semifinalist St. Thomas More; 2014 3A runner-up Richwood; and strong teams from Westgate and West Jefferson, and Tiff County, three-time defending 6A champion of Georgia.

The Rebels are the two-time defending tournament champions, but Byrd said his team will have to truly persevere to make it three in a row.

“There’s no doubt, the field is much tougher this year,” Byrd said. “Beyond Montverde, you’ve got six to eight teams who could viably win it, if they get hot. Really, it may be more than that. We’re obviously going to be an underdog. It’s going to be a true challenge for us, but our kids are intent on defending their title.

“We’ve got the 2, 3 and 4 seeds on our side of the bracket, right out the box. This tournament will make us better.”

This is the third tournament of the season for Riverside, which won the Holy Cross Christmas tournament but lost three times at the City of the Palms national tourney in Florida.

Byrd said his team is in better shape for a potential tourney run at this juncture.

“We lost by 2, 2 and 5 points (at the City of the Palms) against some of the best in the country,” Byrd said.

“We were disappointed to lose three games there, but we felt we had chances in all of those games, only about a week or two into our season. I feel like we’re in better game-shape now. I liked what I saw from our guys at Holy Cross and I liked what I saw (Monday) against East St. John.”

On the girls side, West St. John, Hahnville and Destrehan will represent the River Region, competing with the likes of defending Sugar Bowl champion Salmen; 2014 4A runner-up Warren Easton; defending 5A champion Mount Carmel; 2014 2A runner-up Doyle; 2014 Class 3A semifinalist John Curtis; St. Thomas Aquinas; Ouachita; Karr; Chapelle; Cabrini; Assumption and Germantown (Pa.)

The first game officially tips off today at 4 p.m. as Helen Cox faces Country Day on the boys side. Riverside opens against Richwood at 7 p.m.

The girls tournament begins Thursday. Destrehan will face Germantown at 7:30 p.m. West St. John will also tip off at 7:30 p.m., against John Curtis. Hahnville tips off at 4:30 p.m. against Cabrini.