ALBANY -- First-round playoff games can sometimes be a test for the favored team, as it usually is playing an opponent that should be overmatched.
The Albany Lady Hornets passed their version of that test with flying colors Thursday night.
Behind Natalie Kelly’s 25 points and Camryn Woods’ 18, the Lady Hornets cruised to a 69-51 victory over Caldwell Parish to advance in Class 3A.
Sixth-seeded Albany moves on to play 11th-seeded Donaldsonville at home Monday in the second round. Donaldsonville was a 65-29 winner over Port Allen.
Albany imposed its will on Caldwell, using its size advantage with Kelly on the post, a strategy that Kelly said is something she and her teammates thrive on.
“It’s something that coaches tell us every single game: We have to be ready to be physical,” Kelly said. “We have to block out and rebound. That’s our No. 1 job, so every night we have to be ready for that.”
Kelly not only contributed in the scoring column for the Lady Hornets, but also had 6 rebounds, a block and 3 steals. In addition to her 18 points, Woods had two steals and two 3-pointers.
Albany coach Stacy Darouse said getting those team leaders like Woods and Kelly heavily involved is always key for the Lady Hornets.
“That’s the balance of our team,” Darouse said. “That’s beauty of it and it’s great to have players like that step up.”
Albany jumped out quickly in the first quarter, scoring the first nine points of the game in the first 1:18 of the contest. The Lady Hornets defense and full-court pressure led to a comfortable 21-6 lead at the end of the first period.
Caldwell made a small run in the second quarter, as Albany hurt itself with missed shots and turnovers. But the lead was cut only minimally, as Caldwell only outscored the Lady Hornets 19-18 in the second period to trail at halftime 39-25.
Albany used the beginning of the third quarter to put the game away, taking its biggest lead a 46-25 with 7:01 left in the third.
Caldwell came back, going on a 15-4 run in the next 5 minutes to cut the lead to 50-40. The Lady Hornets would not wilt, however, never letting Caldwell get the lead under double digits as Albany took a 57-43 lead into the fourth quarter.
A quick 6-0 run to start the fourth led by a Woods’ 3-pointer and three points, a steal and a rebound from Kelly put the Lady Hornets back up 63-43 and it was never close again.
Darouse said the lapse in the second half is something that the Lady Hornets cannot let happen as they get deeper into the playoffs.
“We did enough, but doing enough isn’t good enough from here on out,” she said. “We came out and played well early but then we played a little safe.
“That worries me because everybody else (in the playoffs) is way physical and we need to handle that better.”
Woods said when lapses like that happen, settling down and being patient is key.
“We just have to really focus on our defense,” she said. “Coach always tells us that if we work on our defense, the offense will come.”
The game got a little chippy towards the end when Kelly, while battling for a rebound, got tangled with Caldwell’s Jakalya King under the basket. Both players got a little heated toward each other, with officials having to separate the two. Kelly was called for a technical foul for pushing King and also balling her fist.
Albany got 10 points Hannah Vicknair, six on two 3-pointers. Kiara Johnson had 6 rebounds for the Lady Hornets, and Vicknair and Johnson both had three steals. Johnson also blocked two shots.
Woods said the Lady Hornets know now that things will only get tougher as Albany continues to advance in the postseason.
“We just have to focus on one game at a time and once that game is over, then you can look to the next one,” Woods said.
ALBANY 69, CALDWELL PARISH 51
Caldwell 6 19 18 8 -- 51
Albany 21 18 18 12 -- 69
Caldwell Parish (51) -- Jakayla King 15, Hannah McKee 14, K. Stanley 9, Tranicka Butler 6, Krystal Girod 5, M. Swim 2. Totals 17-36 14-19 51.
Albany (69) -- Natalie Kellie 25, Camryn Woods 18, Hannah Vicknair 10, Mahogany Williams 6, Kiara Johnson 6, Bailee Gardiner 4. Totals 24-54 17-29 69.
3-point goals -- Caldwell 3 (Stanley 3), Albany 4 (Vicknair 2, Woods 2). Records: Caldwell 14-14, Albany 20-14. Up next: Donaldsonville at Albany, 6 p.m. Monday.