The prep basketball season is on its last breath, as all of our area’s best are wrapping up postseason play.
Now it’s time for the fun part – giving our standouts credit where it’s due – credit in the name of a slender golden trophy clad with the beautiful, picturesque face of your favorite sportswriter.
OK, OK, he may not be your favorite sportswriter, but wherever he ranks, the Casey Awards are here once more to award the best and brightest of the 2011-12 basketball season.
This year has been a very good year for prep basketball in our area and narrowing down our winners has proven to be more difficult than in years past.
So let’s get to the moment the fans have been waiting for since preseason and list this year’s winners.
OK, OK, we stretched the truth again – you all probably haven’t been waiting as intently as we stated above.
Either way, here’s the 2011-12 awards class.
2011-12 Rookie of the Year – Given to the most prolific freshman or sophomore among Tri-parish basketball players – Winner: Vandebilt Catholic freshmen Jewel Triggs and Cassidy Barrios
The Lady Terriers were dealt with a double dose of the injury bug this preseason, losing both Laci LeBlanc and Jasmine Howard to different ailments. With a lack of depth, Vandebilt turned to their freshman duo to fill the void. The rest, as they say, is history. Triggs and Barrios have more than held their own this season, giving Vandebilt the stability they desperately needed when LeBlanc and Howard went down. Sure, Leah Washington and D’Arcy Draper get all the headlines, but without these freshmen, Vandebilt’s postseason run wouldn’t be possible.
The Can’t Miss, Must-see Player – Given to the most exciting player to watch in the Tri-parish area – Winner: Lloyd Grogan, Central Catholic High School
Most Tri-parish natives know Grogan for his football prowess. Rightfully so, as he is going to play at the next level in that sport, having already signed a scholarship with Louisiana Tech to continue his career. But the Eagles’ standout is just as – if not more – explosive with a basketball in his hands. Grogan was the main cog in the Eagles’ up-tempo offense this year, combining both outside scoring ability with elite athleticism in the paint. On the offensive glass, Grogan is a terror to opponents, often grabbing rebounds with fury, throwing them back into the basket with ease. When left alone, the Eagles’ standout isn’t afraid to fire home a one-handed slam dunk. Win, lose or draw, those watching Central Catholic got their money’s worth this year. Grogan and his squad usually put on a show – one that was played several feet above the rim.
The Super Senior Leader – Given to the Tri-parish boy’s player who exhibited the greatest senior leadership throughout the season – Winner: South Lafourche forward Micah Blanchard
South Lafourche looked like they were on the verge of being one of the top seeds in the Class 5A state playoffs at the mid point of the season. Blanchard was a huge factor in that run, giving the Tarpons both an inside presence and the ability to score away from the basket. The Tarpons’ senior was lost in the middle of the season with an injury, and the team never regained its early season form. Despite having his final playoff run taken from him, Blanchard remained a vital member of South Lafourche’s roster, actively rooting on his teammates in the heat of battle. That’s leadership. That earns Blanchard the nod over a slew of worthy candiates, including Vandebilt’s Seth Ward.
The Female Super Senior Leader – Given to the Tri-parish girl’s player who exhibited the greatest senior leadership throughout the season – Winner: Vandebilt Catholic forward Leah Washington
In a year where most of our standout girls’ teams were guided by underclassmen players, Washington takes this one home in a landslide. With two teammates lost for the season with injury, the Lady Terriers’ powerful post stabilized both Vandebilt’s offense and defense to push the team back to the Top 28 Tournament. Her inside presence opened up lanes for younger players to have opportunities to shine. Washington has also served as a big sister for the team, perfectly blending her laid back personality with a nack of knowing when to be serious. Vandebilt only has a handful of seniors this year and many are already forcasting the team as favorites to cut down the nets in 2013. But don’t underestimate’s Washington’s value to the team’s success.
The Progression Express – Given to the Tri-parish’s most improved player – Winner: Ellender center Gibby Talbot
I watched Gibby Talbot play as a sophomore and I didn’t think he was much of a threat in the post for Ellender. Heck, he’d probably tell someone the same. But those days are gone and Talbot is an absolute force to be reckoned with for the Patriots. With a more lean, cut frame, Talbot is able to easily muscle into the lane and get wherever he wants on the basketball floor. Once there, the Patriots’ center also has a refined offensive attack, exhibiting far more touch around the basket. I challenge someone to find me a player in Lousisiana with more double doubles than Talbot recorded this season. Whatever college lands this still blooming young post is in for a treat.
The Tri-parish’s version of Pat Summitt – Given to the girl’s basketball prep coach of the year – Winner: Vandebilt Catholic coach Kathy Luke
If someone had showed me the final standings in the preseason, I’d have voted Terrebonne coach Gus Brown as the coach of the year, because the work he did with the Lady Tigers this season was nothing short of phenominal. But there’s no way Luke doesn’t take home another coach of the year title. With her team left for dead in the preseason, the injury depleted Lady Terriers persevered and responded by becoming one of the top teams in Class 4A. They did so, while also fielding one of the most youthful rosters in the area. Luke could be considered a coach of the year candidate every season. She’s just that good. But this may be her best coaching job to date – that’s saying a lot.
The Tri-parish’s version of Phil Jackson – Given to the boy’s basketball prep coach of the year – Winner: Patterson coach Ryan Taylor
Look at the Lumberjacks’ pregame layup line and one will likely not be overly impressed with what they see. Sure, Patterson does have talent and athleticism – there’s no denying that. But the team doesn’t have elite size, nor one true dominant player. That doesn’t prohibit the team from having success. The Jacks reached the Elite 8 in Class 3A again this season, losing just four games alone the way. Ultimately, the team’s poor seed cost them – a seed they earned because of a weak district. But the Jacks advanced farther than any other local team in postseason play and a lion’s share of that credit needs to belong to Taylor, who does a fine job keeping his team focused on the prize.
The Candace Parker doesn’t have nothing on me award – Given to the girl’s basketball most valuable player in the area – Winner: Central Catholic guard Meo Knight
There are a lot of standout female players in the area, a list that includes Washington, teammate D’Arcy Draper, Terrebonne’s guard/forward combination of Raina Diggs and Darian Dees and also Ellender’s Shakira Bingham. That’s not even mentioning defending champion Darian LeBlanc who won this same award last year. But without question, this year’s winner has to be Knight, who routinely scores 20-30 points a night for the Lady Eagles. The good news for Tri-parish sports fans? Knight is just a sophomore. Consider her the heavy favorite to win this award for two more seasons.
The Kobe Bryant can’t touch this award – Given to the boy’s basketball most valuable player in the area – Winners: Vandebilt Catholic guard Lionheart Leslie
I’ll be the first person to admit that this award was going to Gibby Talbot for 95 percent of the season. But Leslie’s performance in a road game against the Patriots with the district title on the line sealed the deal and earned him the trophy. Playing without two starting guards – one lost to injury, the other having fouled out – Leslie scored 29 points. He earned every one of those baskets, scoring with half Ellender’s roster hanging off him in a physical contest that left the junior guard with a busted bottom lip. Leslie also posted two more huge games in the team’s playoff outings, sealing the deal for the guard’s second-straight Casey Award title.
2011-12 First Team All Tri-Parish (Boys)
G. DeShaun Diggs (Terrebonne)
G. Lionheart Leslie (Vandebilt Catholic)
G. Lloyd Grogan (Central Catholic)
G. Deonta Ward (H.L. Bourgeois)
F. Houston Chatman (Ellender)
F. Seth Ward (Vandebilt Catholic)
C. Gibby Talbot (Ellender)
2011-12 First Team All Tri-Parish (Girls)
G. Raina Diggs (Terrebonne)
G. Shakira Harding (Vandebilt)
G. Meo Knight (Central Catholic)
F. Darian LeBlanc (South Lafourche)
F. Darian Dees (Terrebonne)
F. D’Arcy Draper (Vandebilt Catholic)
C. Leah Washington (Vandebilt Catholic)
Congratulations to all of the winners and keep on keeping on! It is because of you guys and gals that this basketball season was one to remember!
Vandebilt Catholic guard Lionheart Leslie won hardware for the second-straight season in the Casey Awards.