Road warrior Carver Rams on the road again in Final Four
The road warriors have made their final road trip this season.
The 2019-2020 Carver Rams have experienced a season like no other in recent memory, if ever.
Playing all of its games on the road due to LHSAA sanctions imposed following a melee involving fans which players got involved with in the 2018-19 season, Carver was fined and its program was forced to play all of its games this season on the road.
Despite a good team a season ago, the brawl forced the LHSAA to force Carver to the sideline, unable to participate in the state playoffs despite winning a district championship.
Despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them, the Rams have reached the Final Four in Class 4A.
Carver claimed its only state championship in 2003, winning the 4A state championship 63-61 over St. Thomas More.
The sixth-seeded Rams have a chance to make history again in Lake Charles beginning Thursday night when they take on No. 2 Breaux Bridge Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the Class 4A semifinals at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
Rams head coach Nathaniel Roche remembers the last time Carver played at home and why not. It was the game which led to the sanctions.
“Our last home game was against John F. Kennedy a year ago,” Roche said. “We look forward to playing at home again next season.”
To go 26-8 in all road games with wins over Newman, Salmen, Hahnville, St. Thomas More, Crescent City Christian, you have to be good and you have to be tough-minded.
“We have great senior leadership,” Roche said. “I have a core group of guys who have played for me for four years including Ray Walker, Michael Pajeaud, Ronald Ducros and Fredwood Evans are great leaders. They set the foundation for our program. We were able to get some younger kids in the mix. We have a really good sophomore class and we have some freshmen peaking now.”
Pajeaud is the leading scorer, averaging 15.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game.
Two of the sophomores who have stood out is 6-foot-seven Solomon Washington, who is averaging 10.9 points, 11.9 rebounds, five blocks and 2.3 assists per game while 6-foot-five Dorian Finister averages 12.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
“Solomon has been great for us,” Roche said. “He joined the program last year and made an impact immediately. He brings a ton of energy to practice daily. He’s just a kid that constantly plays at a high level and continues to get better every single day. Dorian has done everything that we have asked him to do and he is only going to bet better.”
The Rams had no choice but to accept their sentence. To say that Carver has handled it well will be a colossal understatement.
“I think it has been an experience that we mentally prepared for,” Roche said. “We kind of used the events to make us mentally tougher. I think it’s been challenging at times but as a coach, I think we bought in and it made us tougher.”
Roche’ gives all of the credit to his players.
“The kids have been amazing,” Roche said. “I’m super impressed with the way they came in and bought to everything that happened. We re-focused to be more disciplined and became more committed to what we wanted to accomplish both on the basketball court and off the court.”
Facing a tough schedule which include losses to Hahnville, Crescent City Christian, Booker T. Washington of New Orleans, McMain (twice) and Bonnabel, the Rams simply got tougher.
“We were well prepared for the playoffs with our tough schedule and being on the road,” Roche said. “We always want to play the toughest programs in the state. We will always push ourselves to be great. We want to continue to do that. Of course, that is why we are ready for moments like this.”
Carver has advanced in the playoffs by defeating North Vermilion before making consecutive trips to Shreveport, beating Booker T. Washington and Huntington.
Breaux Bridge (27-8) won at home over Northwood, won at Ellender and defeated Salmen in the quarterfinals to advance. Breaux Bridge knocked off top seed Bossier 61-58 in the 2019 state title game.
“They are the defending champions. We have a lot of respect for them. We are planning and preparing with the utmost respect. We just want to continue to play Carver Ram basketball. It is really about us, not our opponents. We simply want to stay true to what we are good at and to get our best even better. If we do that, it will take care of itself.”
Roche knows what it would feel like to take home the trophy.
“It would mean a lot to win it all,” Roche said. “I understand how much the community enjoys basketball. We are so excited to get the program back to this high level. Having the opportunity to play in the Final Four is a wonderful experience and one we want to continue to do with regularity at Carver.”
The sanctions expire at the end of the season.
“Like I said, we cannot wait to play at home again,” Roche said. “First, we want to win it all this year.”
On the road again.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…