District 4-5A didn’t conduct a postseason tournament, but one look at the bottom half of the Class 5A state playoff bracket provides opportunities for some familiar faces to cross paths once again en route to Alexandria – home of this year’s championship game.
Four of the league’s six teams are placed on the same side of the bracket where league champion – Walker High (28-4) is seeded No. 2 after the LHSAA unveiled its pairings on Monday.
For the second time in two weeks, Denham Springs and Zachary will meet as the No. 6 Lady Jackets (24-5) host the No. 27 Lady Broncos at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Denham Springs won 45-31 at Zachary last Tuesday.
“It’s a tough matchup for it being the first game,” DSHS first-year coach Blake Zito said. “It’s the 5A playoffs. You’re going to play tough teams. There are no easy games.”
Walker, which hosts No. 31 Destrehan (17-16) at 6 p.m. Thursday, could run into Denham Springs for third time this season. The teams have divided a pair of games, most recently with the Lady Cats rallying for a 58-50 victory in last Friday’s District 4-5A championship game.
“I was curious to see how it would play out with the numbers (seedings),” Walker coach Hannah Jones said. “It could be tough. I thought it was ironic.”
The possibilities of a 4-5A matchup extends to No. 19 Live Oak (17-8), which visits No. 14 Thibodaux (21-7).
The Lady Eagles and Lady Jackets could face each other in the quarterfinal round.
“We’re trying to take it one game at a time,” Live Oak coach Michele Yawn said. “The girls are feeling pretty good about it and that makes me feel pretty good. My first year, it was the first time for Live Oak in the playoffs in eight years. I don’t think the playoff jitters are there, it’s like we’re supposed to be here. Now let’s go and do something about it.”
Destrehan at Walker
Not only is Walker riding high from its district championship performance on Friday, but after a long wait, the Lady Cats will make their debut in the school’s new gym.
“It’s very exciting,” Jones said. “It’s something new and a good, fun change is always exciting. Getting used to the court has been different. They’re so used to the (old) Glenn Ellis Gym.”
Monday marked the team’s second practice in the brand-new gym which is built to seat 2,000 people and has stand-alone goals on the floor which are a greater distance away from the walls than previously in the Ellis Gym.
The Lady Cats will conduct two more full practices on Tuesday and Wednesday and a shoot-around on Thursday to gain a better familiarity with their new court and vast surroundings.
“I know they’re going to be excited when they get to play that actual (first) game on it,” Jones said. “It’s a big change from what they’re used to. I’ve tried emphasizing getting used to the new gym.”
Zachary at Denham Springs
Zito doesn’t feel his team could have had any better preparation for the playoffs than last Friday’s 58-50 home loss to Walker that decided the District 4-5A championship, not the Lady Jackets' season.
“I know it’s not the playoffs where you lose and go home,” Zito said, “but for those kids, in a district championship (game) against Walker, the stakes don’t get higher. Even though it’s not the same, they’ve had that kind of pressure and in front of a (big) home crowd.
“You want to win every game,” Zito said. “But hopefully you’ve learned something from each game and Friday showed us somethings we need to work on, coaches included. It was a tough loss but hopefully it’s something we look back on and say it’s something that changed us going into the playoffs and that’s why we had success. That’s up to us.”
Zachary’s a program that played in the Class 5A state championship game a year ago.
The Lady Broncos made it tough on the Lady Jackets a week ago, only trailing 13-12 at halftime, before guard Alexius Horne and Jala Robinson helped DSHS distance itself down the stretch.
“Playing a district team will help us maybe focus a little bit,” Zito said. “They challenged us, and we didn’t play very well which is kind of good in my book. The kids want to play better instead of maybe having played well against them and have to do it again, we’re kind of hungry to play well against them.”
Live Oak at Thibodaux
This marks the third straight postseason trip for the Lady Eagles, something Yawn believes will prove beneficial after previously serving as more of a novelty.
“It’s a business trip, that’s what we said at practice Monday,” Yawn said. “The last couple of years there’s been an excitement about being in the playoffs. We’re trying to keep everything as routine as possible and now let’s go take care of business. I’m excited. I like our chances going into this game.”
With five wins in its last six games, Live Oak has certainly provided Yawn with plenty of optimism going to Thibodaux, winners of its last seven games.
The lone blemish in that stretch for the Lady Eagles – a 45-31 loss to Denham Springs – served as kind of a launch point after a strong fourth-quarter finish.
Live Oak has responded with three double-digit victories, including 47-29 win over Belaire to close out the regular season.
“I think we’re playing pretty consistent,” Yawn said. “We still can still play a little bit better. I feel pretty confident. Z (Zyriah Pink) has improved so much and contributes offensively. Taylor’s (Woodside) a consistent player. We’re all a little seasoned and that makes such a big difference.”
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