LAKE CHARLES, La. (WGNO) — In the year after Solomon Washington, Dorian Finister, Willie Anderson, and one of the greatest senior classes to come through the Carver basketball program, the winning standard never changed.

“What makes it sweet is that people didn’t expect us to be here. you know, they saw the team that we had last year,” said Carver head coach Nate Roche. “Everybody saw a lot of those kids graduating, and they thought that we weren’t going to have nothing.”

In their semifinal bout with Peabody, Carver trailed by as many as eight points in the third quarter.

But in the fourth, contributions from players young and old helped the Rams outscore Peabody 19-12 in the final frame and punch their ticket to the program’s third consecutive state title appearance.

“We had a kid, David Williams, he came off the bench and he played so much tonight,” explained Roche following the semifinal win. “He had a big shot to put us down one. Jaylon [Hicks] carried us, led us. Daijan [Leatherman] carried us, led us. You know, we just all believe in each other and we keep working. We don’t want to give up. We don’t want to put our head down. We don’t want to lose hope. And that’s what happened today.”

Sophomore Daijan Leatherman recorded a 14-point,14 rebound double-double while senior Jaylon Hicks led the second-half charge with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks.

Hicks is one of two returning starters from last year’s 4A title team and he’s been instrumental in their return to the championship spotlight in 2023.

“I’ve been on this team for four years,” said Hicks. “I’ve faced everything. I’ve played different roles and this year I had to take on a bigger role. Had to work harder and get after it, my game showed up when I needed to play. I feel like I’m the man, so I wanted to both go coach talk about making know or anything else.”

Coach Roche agreed.

“Jaylon hicks is a kid that sacrificed everything,” he said. “In my opinion, he’s the best player in the state of Louisiana, hands down. He’s going to petition for it all the way to the championship game.”

No. 6-seed Carver takes on top-seeded Madison Prep in the LHSAA Division II Select championship game inside Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles, La., on Saturday (March 11) at 2 p.m.