The Port Allen Pelicans need one win to do something no team in program history has done — win a state championship.
That task won't be easy with defending champion Rayville standing in Port Allen's way. The Pelicans will look to take down the top-seeded Hornets Friday in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Marsh Madness Finals at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
Port Allen (24-12) edged Lake Arthur in the semifinals Monday and excitement in the community for an already loyal fan base has been on another level.
"It's been awesome," said Port Allen head coach Derrick Jones. "We didn't really get a chance to enjoy the Red River win. We took Tuesday off, kind of got away and then they went to school Wednesday and they loved that the teachers and everybody were loving on them. On Thursday we had a sendoff and our faculty and the community was amazing."
Before heading to Lake Charles on Thursday, the Port Allen team made a round trip through Port Allen and Erwinville, visiting the various middle and elementary schools in those areas.
The Hornets enter averaging 118 points per game in the playoff run, which includes a 115-52 win over Ville Platte in the semifinals.
Despite what Rayville has done throughout the playoffs, Jones said his team is very confident heading into the matchup.
"The film doesn't lie," he said. "When you watch a full game, you can see how good a team really is. The team left that film room very confident."
Jones acknowledged Rayville's size, athleticism and talent, led by the trio of Mylik, JaMichael and JaMarkus Wilson.
Port Allen did not advance to the Top 28 in Lake Charles last season, but Jones said he traveled to watch the semifinal matchup between Red River and Rayville.
"The goal we made at the first team meeting this year was to win a state championship," Jones said. "We didn't tell the kids, but as a staff, we knew in order to win a state championship, we would have to beat Rayville. We just didn't know when we would have to play them."
Jones said his team will have to limit Rayville's transition offense number of easy baskets. He said it'll be essential for his team to block out, rebound and value possessions by limiting turnovers.
"I have a feeling it will be a close game where possessions will really matter," he said. "Whoever can execute the base fundamentals the best, will win."
To many, Port Allen is viewed as a heavy underdog, but Jones said that his team isn't worried about the outside voices.
"I've heard a few so-called experts around the state that say the only team who can beat Rayville is Red River and that Port Allen doesn't have a chance," Jones said. "That doesn't make much sense to me. We went on the road and beat Red River.
"I'm excited about the game," he added. "We know they're really really good, but we're really really good, too."