DENHAM SPRINGS -- To get where the Denham Springs High girls want to the next few weeks, they will have to get solid play from their inside players. That’s no secret.
Along that journey, though, the Lady Jackets will also need their veteran crew of guards to chime in.
Both precincts weighed in Thursday night and that proved to be an awfully tough combination for Thibodaux in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Denham got its customary contributions from the powerhouse duo of Tremeeka Spikes and Maia Robinson, but it was the play of guards Caroline Taylor, Christina Canale and Kamryn King that shifted momentum to the Lady Jackets once and for good in a 65-30 romp in front a raucous home crown at Hornsby Gym.
Spikes led the Lady Jackets (27-5) with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Robinson scored 11 and snared 4 boards, doing most of her damage in the initial three quarters.
As good as those two were early on, though, Thibodaux (17-10) managed to stick close and actually led 10-9 when the first quarter ended. Not exactly a rousing start to what the Lady Jackets have eyed all season as the time of the season that will define their season.
“This was our first playoff game and we came out a little nervous,” said Taylor, who scored 15 points and recorded 5 assists and 4 steals. “We needed to settle down and get that out of our system.”
Once that hurdle was scaled, DSHS got down to business and the guards were at the eye of the storm.
Taylor pumped in a baseline jumper off the dribble to put the Lady Jackets in front on the opening possession of the second quarter. From there, Denham began to methodically take away everything the Lady Tigers tried to do.
Defense clicked as Thibodaux started missing shots and, more damaging, turning the ball over. Taylor and Canale each had three steals as the Lady Tigers unraveled and DSHS turned defense into offense, with Taylor feeding Desiree Jones for a fast-break hoop and hitting a 3-pointer.
Once she and Canale began to attack, Thibodaux had to soften up its zone inside and Robinson took over with six points in a tow, the last when she followed her own miss to give Denham a 22-12 lead.
Thibodaux’s Destiny Batiste scored to briefly stop the bleeding, but the Lady Jackets revved back up with Spikes scoring six points in a row following a Payton Chustz hoop on a high-low lob. Taylor capped a dominantly effective quarter with a three-point play as DSHS went to halftime on top 33-15.
“When our post players can’t get shots because the defense is packed back in on them, that puts it on the guards to get things going by either getting them the ball or making some outside shots,” Taylor said. “We got it going well in that second quarter.”
Added Lady Jackets’ coach Shelly Laprarie, “Our guards definitely have the ability to get us going and make us a different team. I like that balance we can have because if a defense stops us from going inside, we’ve got shooters who can hit shots.”
And Denham has players who can defend. A lot of them.
As pretty as the Lady Jackets’ offensive performance was – they produced points on 11 of 13 second-quarter possessions – it was suffocating defense that underscored this win.
Batiste was aggressive early and helped the Lady Tigers hit three of their first five floor shots on the way to an 8-7 lead.
After that, Denham made every offensive trip a struggle, every shot and every simple pass a challenge. Thibodaux scored on consecutive possessions just once all night and wound up shooting 26.2% (11 for 42) with 18 turnovers.
“Defense is what gets us going,” Taylor said. “Even when our offense isn’t going well, we know we can dig down and play good defense and have a chance to win.”
Mixed with the kind of knockout instinct veteran teams learn by playing together for three years, that’s a tough recipe for an overmatched team.
The Lady Tigers scrapped throughout the third quarter to prevent the deficit from blowing up, but DSHS found the gear it needed to begin the final period.
Taylor again lit the fuse with a 3-pointer as the Lady Jackets churned out 19 points on their 10 possessions to open the quarter as the Lady Tigers wandered through a 3:49 scoring drought.
By the time Laprarie emptied the Lady Jackets’ bench, the lead was 56-26 and Denham was well on its way.
“We had some problems early, but once we realized we had to attack the middle of their zone and use our hi-low or skip to the opposite side, we got comfortable,” she said. “We had some jitters, but we settled down quickly and played really well.”
With the victory, No. 4-seeded Denham earned a second-round matchup with 13th-seeded Dutchtown, which cruised past Fontainebleau 62-43 on Friday.
The Lady Jackets edged the Lady Griffins 52-46 on Dec. 27 to trigger a 13-game winning streak. That could be plenty of attention-getter, although the DSHS players know to expect the best shot from every opponent the rest of this season.
“We’ve had the target on us all season and now it’s just going to keep getting bigger every time we play,” Taylor said. “We’re ready for it.”
DSHS 65, THIBODAUX 30
Thibodaux 10 5 9 6 -- 30
DSHS 9 24 11 21 -- 65
Thibodaux (30) -- Ja’mya Holmes 1-6 0-5 2, Courtney Clark 2-15 1-6 6, La’anjana Gray 0-1 0-0 0, Bre’naisa Adams 1-3 2-4 4, Destiny Batiste 4-9 3-6 11, Carlyn Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Na’dreonna Slack 0-0 1-2 1, Lexi Bourgeois 1-1 0-0 2, Hannah Adams 1-2 0-0 2, Madison West 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 11-42 7-21 30.
DSHS (65) -- Christina Canale 1-6 0-0 2, Caroline Taylor 5-14 2-3 15, Kamryn King 0-2 1-2 1, Tremeeka Spikes 8-11 5-8 21, Maia Robinson 4-7 3-6 11, Jayley Clouatre 0-0 0-0 0, Payton Chustz 2-2 0-0 4, Desiree Jones 2-3 0-0 4, Kate Thompson 2-3 0-0 5, Abigail Gunby 0-1 0-0 0, Morgan Messina 0-0 0-0 0, Elliott 0-0 0-0 0, Maggie Gibson 1-3 0-0 2, Nautica Maryland 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 25-52 11-22 65.
3-point goals -- Thibodaux 1-9 (Clark 1-6, West 0-1, Batiste 0-2), DSHS 4-12 (Taylor 3-10, Thompson 1-1, Canale 0-1). Total fouls -- Thibodaux 12, DSHS 14. Records: Thibodaux 17-10, DSHS 27-5. Up next: Dutchtown at DSHS, time TBD Monday.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at (225) 610.5507 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
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