March 16, 1997
LAFAYETTE - No one really expected the Louisiana High School Athletic Association/State Farm Top 28 boys basketball tournament to set attendance records during its first year in Lafayette.
The same was true of the LHSAA's Sweet 16 girls tournament in its first year in Monroe. Sometimes when you play, the fans will simply come.
And the fact so many fans attended both events proves that Louisiana high school sports truly are alive and well as spectator events.
Neither tournament was blessed with a draw that included a large number of teams from its area. Most of the area teams lost in the semifinal rounds.
Through Friday night, the Top 28 tournament had already attracted more than 30,000 fans. The Sweet 16 brought in more than 22,000 fans and finished just short of establishing an attendance record.
"I think most of the Sweet 16 attendance came from the schools, which shows there is room for growth," LHSAA commissioner Tommy Henry said. "More of the Lafayette crowd came from the area and that was nice. We can see room for growth there too.
"I think the people in both Lafayette and Monroe put in a lot of time and extra effort to put on good tournaments. Naturally, there were some things that had to be worked out because we had never worked with them before. Overall, I think they did a tremendous job in both places."
This kind of fan support ended a year of anticipation and speculation on a positive note. Moving two major championships was a gamble.
Concerns over counterfeit tickets forced the LHSAA to eliminate advance ticket sales this year. That made the gamble even greater.
Sometimes, you gamble and win.
To some, the winnings may not seem overwhelming. One major LHSAA goal is to put on quality championship events for the teams. Both the Sweet 16 and Top 28 met those criteria.
OTHER NET NOTES: Henry called the Southern Lab-Arcadia Class 1A boys title game played Friday, "One of those special events."
"I don't think you could have seen two teams play any harder than they did in the last couple of minutes," Henry said. "It was a great effort, in a controlled environment with a great crowd."
A number of former players and coaches were honored at halftime of the Friday and Saturday night games.
The group included ex-Southwestern Louisiana player Alonzo Allen; former Louisiana College coach Billy Allgood; ex-McNeese player and prep coach Clyde Briley; former USL player Ronald "Dean" Church; former Baker and USL player Robert Cutrer; ex-USL player Kevin Figaro; former Baton Rouge High coach E.W. Foy; ex-USL player Gordy Glenn; former Northwestern coach and athletic director Tynes Hildebrand; ex-Nicholls player Cleveland Hill; former Grambling coach and athletic director Fred Hobdy; former Northeast player and coach Benny Hollis; ex-Nicholls player Shelby Hypolite; former USL player Wayne Julien; ex-USL player Dwight "Bo" Lamar; former USL player Ernest Lancon; longtime coach, ex-Northeast Louisiana player and official Milton Linder; former LSU player Bobby Lowther; ex-Redemptorist and USL player Ted Lyles; former LSU player Durand "Rudy" Macklin; ex-USL player Eric Mouton; former McNeese player John Rudd; and former USL player James "Freddie" Saunders; ex-USL coach Beryl Shipley;Top 20 state tournament founder Orvis Sigler Jr.; ex-LSU player Collis Temple; former USL player Charles "Tim" Thompson; ex-USL player Andrew Toney; ex-McNeese player David Wallace; former USL player Marvin "Wink" Winkler; and ex-Northwestern player James Wyatt.
Capital City Press, Baton Rouge, La.
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.)