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“Playing and Winning Together in Louisiana’s Sabine Parish”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 25, 2007

from The NY Times:

“After nine hours of basketball, the air-conditioning system seemed to have a nervous breakdown. Still, more than 500 fans shoehorned into the tiny, sheet-metal gym at Pleasant Hill High School on Saturday night. When the bleachers filled, some people grabbed folding chairs. Others sat on the floor along the baseline. Flashes of yellow rippled through the crowd as spectators fanned themselves with a booklet of team rosters.

All seven high schools in Sabine Parish have won boys state titles; five of the girls teams have won. They had squeezed inside to see the Zwolle Hawks, the county power that is either 43-0 or 44-1 this season, depending on the inclusion of two informal games. Some fans had arrived in the morning, sitting through six previous games of the Sabine Shootout, a tune-up for the Louisiana state playoffs that begin Feb. 23.

There are thousands of one-blink communities like Zwolle (pronounced ZWAH-lee) around the country. Some, in states like Indiana and Kentucky, have become mythic for their hoops-on-a-barn devotion. But perhaps nowhere does basketball zealotry surpass the rural fervor of the timber and railroad towns of Sabine Parish.

All seven parish high schools have won a state championship in boys basketball; five of the girls teams have. The nation’s greatest schoolboy scorer and its leading career rebounder played in this poor, racially diverse county on the Texas border in north-central Louisiana. So did the highest-scoring boys and girls teams, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

‘If it’s not round and bouncing, it don’t matter around here,’ Bradley McLaren, 24, the Zwolle coach, said.”

continue here:

(Thanks to Nelson Wang for the tip!)


6 Responses to ““Playing and Winning Together in Louisiana’s Sabine Parish””

  1. Nelson said

    as i wrote in my accompanying note to steve, this story is a movie waiting to happen. in fact, i wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already been optioned (and if there are any filmmakers out there who’d like to work on it, i’d love to help work on the screenplay).

    among the great quotes/stories in the article:

    -“i came out of my momma with a basketball in my hand”
    -opposing teams hanging players in effigy (ok, maybe that’s not so great, but it’s still a great story)
    -the final quote about baseball–“in baseball, only two people are doing anything. The rest just stand around scratching.” i love baseball, but this quote makes a strong argument for basketball.

    btw, does anyone remember the nuggets player, michael cutbert, who’s referred to in the story? how good was he? just curious…



  2. Nelson – – Great story. Makes me want to ride through that town, have lunch, shoot some hoops down there.

    As a coach who loves push-it-up, confident offensive basketball, the Phoenix Suns, Maravich, of course, and the memory of Loyola Marymount (and, believe it or not, moments from our ’86-’87 Harvard team), this was my favorite:

    “Then, as now, one style is accepted in Zwolle — run on offense, press on defense. The Hawks have scored more than 100 points in 18 games this season — one below the school record. Zwolle’s offense, like the plywood mill, never shuts down.”

    Dream ball.


  3. Josh Kratka said

    Sabine Parish also happens to be downwind of one of the most polluted areas on the Gulf Coast, the Beaumont-Port Arthur region of Jefferson County, Texas, which is filled with oil refineries and petrochemical plants (and where I expect to be working on a Clean Air Act enforcement case soon). Imagine what those high school hoopsters could do if they were breathing clean air during their Jacek Duda drills …


  4. Josh – – Tell us it is true that: you’re gonna shoot some hoops in Sabine Parish or, at least, “toss some beers can into a foot tub”.


  5. Toney Miller said

    I am from Zwolle and had the experience of seeing Michael Cutright play basketball and attended his championship game in 1985. Michael was the most talented scorer I had ever seen in high school sports. Although I was youngish I remember frequent 30/40/50 point games. He actually was an outside shooter before the three point line came into HS basketball. If he played with today’s rules, he would have averaged 40 points a game. He also was an accomplished dunker, windmills, reverses, one-hand, two-hand, off-the-backboard all during live games. He was the best offensive player but the best all around player was his cousin Tony Cutright who played from 87 to 91. Tony had a MJ quality in that he made the people around him better, he was an excellent passer, fundamentally sound and could shoot the lights out if needed. Tony is probably the best all around player to ever come out of Sabine but because of his modesty, probably the most unheralded.


  6. Dustin Sepulvado said

    Little late for this just to let y’all know, Zwolle went on to win state that year in ’07. In ’08 they were State Runner-up by losing by 1 OT. In ’09, that’s got to be one of the best teams Zwolle ever had with the starting line up going 6″3, 6″3, 6″4, 6″5 and 6″9. They should’ve been ranked higher in the nation than 91. They beat the #1 and #2 teams in the state to go on and win it all. Joevoskie Mitchell was named Mr. Basketball of the state. The ’10 season was mostly soph. and juniors, they got beat in the semis in OT down in state by 1. Last year the Hawks won state again led by the 6″9 center and a handful of guards. This year district just started and Zwolle is #1 again and predicted to win again by dominating teams in there class. There schedule consist of teams ranked 1 and 2 in higher classifications. There record as of now is 29-4. They are led by nothing but guards, even there post players play the guard. Zwolle is Basketball. If you haven’t seen them, take a trip down to Zwolle, turn on Championship Drive. Watch the Hawks soar.


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