Zwolle’s Hawks fly high again, claim program’s 16th state championship

JOY OF VICTORY: With a huge crowd of supporters behind them, the Zwolle Hawks raced to claim the state championship trophy Friday night. (Photo by RODRICK ANDERSON, Lake Charles American Press)

In a neighborhood rivalry, Title Town won.

Zwolle High School now houses a state-record 16 LHSAA boys’ basketball championship trophies after the Hawks shackled the Indians of Anacoco Friday evening in the Division V Non-Select state final of Marsh Madness at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

Zwolle won 40-25, going on top early and taking control in the third quarter, stretching a 16-11 halftime lead to 29-15 entering the final quarter. Anacoco pulled within 31-21 early in the fourth but got no closer.

It is the Hawks’ first state championship since 2017 and the seventh in 19 seasons under coach Bradley McLaren, who has led Zwolle to 12 state finals. The 16 boys’ basketball state championships tie Southern Lab for the most in LHSAA history.

After some intense, down-to-the-last-minute meetings in the regular season, another dramatic battle was expected between the teams, just 40 miles apart. It was a defensive struggle and did not lack for intensity. But Zwolle’s defense combined with an off-night for Anacoco to produce a convincing margin of victory for the happy Hawks and their big crowd of great fans.

Zwolle (33-2) didn’t shoot well, just 34 percent overall, but tried only six 3-pointers (making one). The Hawks had a huge 38-22 rebounding advantage and sank 15 of 22 free throws to just 3 of 6 for Anacoco (36-6), who sent Zwolle to the line repeatedly trying to rally in the latter part of the game. The Indians were a miserable 0-for-19 on 3-pointers.

Senior Kenneth Montgomery was voted the Most Outstanding Player after he led Zwolle with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Preston Sanders was close behind at 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Montgomery pushed the Hawks into their first significant lead to start the third quarter, sinking two free throws and then nailing the game’s only 3-pointer for a 21-11 Zwolle lead with 4:50 left before halftime. Zwolle ran off six more points in a row to open the margin to 27-11, and ultimately outscored Anacoco 13-4 in the eight-minute period to take command with the 14-point spread.

When second-seeded Anacoco rallied to draw within 10 in the fourth quarter, the Hawks got a couple of free throws before Sanders hit a sensational driving layup in transition and completed the three-point play with a free throw that reestablished a solid lead, 36-21.

The Hawks outscored the Indians 24-14 overall after plowing to the 16-11 halftime lead.

Zwolle was the No. 1 seed in the tournament bracket and got a first-round bye. The Hawks blasted Quitman 86-61 in Round Two, then topped Choudrant 58-46 in the quarterfinals. They got not one, but two clutch 3-pointers to force, and extend, overtime in Monday night’s double-OT 81-72 win over Gibsland-Coleman.

Friday night in the finals, they left no doubt.

SWEET 16TH:  The Zwolle Hawks pose with the school’s 16th boys’ basketball state championship trophy with a sea of green behind them. (Photo by RODRICK Anderson, Lake Charles American Press)

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