2021 West Ouachita at West Monroe MBB

District 205A gtame played at WMHS guymasium. Photo by TOM MORRIS/The Ouachita Citizen. c.2021.TomMorrisPhotos.com . All Rights Reserved

Moments after the most devastating loss of his coaching career, West Monroe head coach Kyle Hill walked over to the radio booth to do a postgame interview.

Why would he do so after his No. 2 Rebels were upset by the No. 31 Thibodaux Tigers? Hill's answer is simple. It's because he made a commitment to. 

"Anything that happens in your life, good or bad, you have to own it," Hill said. "As a team, we have to own it, and the first person who has to do that is me. Going over there and doing that interview was the first step in doing that. You can't hide from it." 

After leading by 18 points at halftime, the Rebels were stunned at home in the opening round of the playoffs by a comeback that captured the attention of high school basketball fans across the state. The 66-64 loss to Thibodaux sent shockwaves from West Monroe High School all the way down to the southern part of the state.

To the surprise of Hill, not many tears were shed in the postgame. The realization of what just occurred had not fully set in. 

"I think we were all just so stunned that it occurred," Hill said. "We had three or four opportunities in that last minute of the half. It was just more shock than anything. You have frustration and anger because you know you had an opportunity. It was more shock and disbelief than your typical hurting and crying that you'd have in that circumstance." 

Hill didn't make any excuses for the upset loss. 

"It was a storm," Hill said. "If it could go wrong, it did. We didn't make shots. We had bad transition defense because we had guys in foul trouble, so they were hesitant defending in transition. We were 8-of-18 from the free throw line. I didn't have our kids locked in coming out of halftime. I was preaching adjustments instead of having them more locked in. That's on me. I own that. Give their kids credit because they played hard." 

Despite trailing for the majority of the entire game, Thibodaux took a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, and continuous miscues kept West Monroe from closing the gap and finishing the game on top. A missed dunk by Keagan Moncrief, followed by missed free throws from stud players like Javion Richard to a dropped pass by Paul Manning on the final play of the game combined to produce the disappointing result. Down two, Richard found an open Manning. But the pass was not caught cleanly as the buzzer sounded. 

"I grabbed both Javion and Paul after the game," Hill said. "I told Javion that as a college basketball player, his job will be to make the right basketball play. And that was the right play that he made. I told Paul that he has to understand that there were 100 other things that, if they go differently, this thing turns out differently. A lot of people are going to point to that last play, but Paul scored 10 points in the first half of the game. He was a big reason why we led by 18.

"All that people are going to talk about is that last play, but we were 3-of-10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. They're not going to talk about our bad transition defense. I told him to own it, but understand that's not the only reason why we lost that game." 

Jadais Richard led the Rebels with 19 points in the loss. Dakota Gasca and Manning each enjoyed double-figure scoring totals, while Gasca, Javion Richard and Moncrief had to sit more than usual due to foul trouble. 

"I don't know the last time a 31 knocked off a No. 2, but also I don't know how accurate these seeds are because of how many games some have played compared to others," Hill said. "But give them a ton of credit. They won it in 2019. They have a coach that's won it before. He's done a great job." 

The Rebels finish the 2020-21 season with a 17-4 record. 

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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