The girls bracket for the Livingston Parish Tournament has a slightly different look this year, and that's perfectly fine with some of the parish's coaches.
Denham Springs High captured the tournament's top seed, but first-year coach Blake Zito knows that doesn't mean a whole lot when it comes to the parish tournament.
“The coaches voted and that’s a huge compliment for us," Zito said. "There are some really good basketball teams in Livingston Parish. I think the world of Doyle. They gave us everything and we felt very lucky to come away with a win against them. We know what Walker has. They have a special player (Tiara Young) with a special team and they’re going to be tough this year. You know the tradition of Albany, Holden has a great pedigree and French Settlement has a solid team.
"I think it’s going to be a really interesting tournament," Zito continued. "I know we got a No. 1 in front of our name, but I really think it’s up for grabs.”
There's also a slightly different feel to the bracket, and nowhere is that more evident than with the Holden-Albany matchup that kicks off the tournament, which begins at Maurepas High at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Springfield and Maurepas square off at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The championship game is set for 6 p.m. Saturday.
Holden, the two-time defending parish champion, captured the Class B state championship last season, but the Lady Rockets are trying to find their way so far this year and moved to 3-6 on the season after a 60-34 loss to Doyle.
Holden coach Pam Forbes said claiming another parish title could be an uphill climb for the Lady Rockets, but after playing Doyle, she paid the Lady Tigers a pretty good compliment.
“It’s a totally different team,” Forbes. “We cannot even be in the same conversation. Every year is a different chapter and every year is a different team. This group of kids has totally different characters than what was there last year. We are trying to be patient to let them develop on their own. It’s a tough process when you’ve got to meet teams like Doyle, who is going to contend for a Class 2A state championship and – I’m going to go ahead and call it now – contend for a parish championship.
"I think that she’s (Doyle coach Sam White) got the kids. They have the right mindset. They have the right game plan to be able to compete with the 5A schools to be able to win a parish championship.”
Forbes said the biggest thing for the Lady Rockets heading into the parish tournament is to gain some confidence after losing four starters from last season's team to graduation. She also shouldered some of the blame for the team's start to the season, pointing to the team's schedule.
“I really did a poor job with my schedule, because if we would have had a different schedule, I think we would have gotten to our goal a little quicker of playing like we want to play,” she said. “But when you play teams like Doyle, Loranger, Anacoco, Plainview, Fairview, they make you play uncomfortable and then you can’t get comfortable and confident, and we’re not either one right now. That’s very discouraging.”
Like Holden, Albany (4-2) is working to find its stride while building around returning starters Camryn Woods and Layla D'Fonseca.
"I feel like Denham and Walker and Doyle have definitely separated themselves as the top three seeds in the tournament, but from there, I think that any number of us could be four (seed) on any given night, or we could be eight or nine on any given night," Albany coach Stacy Darouse said. "It just depends on which team we get. I think we're all battling, finding out who are teams are and battling a bit of little bit of inconsistency.
"We may be the fourth seed one night and the seventh seed the next. We just hope we play Holden on a night that we're the fourth seed and not the eighth seed, and I know Pam feels the same way. What better way to figure it out than to open the parish tournament with Albany-Holden."
Heading into that first tournament game, the goal for both teams is similar.
"Pam said they're putting possessions together, and I feel like we're kind of the same way -- we're putting possessions together, and then we're not," Darouse said. "I'm looking for (the team) giving me relentless effort play after play. That's what we're looking for. It's not going to be good. It's not going be pretty all the time, and it's not going to be right all the time, but I want relentless effort."
"We're playing and learning by doing, literally. I feel like we're both like that."
“Our goal when we get ready to play Albany is to play the best possible basketball that we can … and try to string as many positive possessions as possible in a row, and the more that we string together, the more confidence we’ll have, and then good things will happen to us," Forbes said. "Hopefully it will happen against Albany.”
Doyle (5-1) picked up the No. 3 seed and will face No. 6 Live Oak at 3 p.m. Wednesday, while Walker and French Settlement tangle at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
"I’m going to tell you, Live Oak can play,” White said. “I was surprised they got the sixth seed. I think they’re better than the sixth seed, I would say that for sure.”
The teams have a bit of history, with Doyle claiming a 51-42 win last month.
"It’s good and bad,” White said of playing Live Oak again. “It has good parts because we know exactly what they’re going to do offensively, defensively. The bad thing is, if you play someone a certain number of times and if you’re about equal or close to that, you slip up one of those times, and we’re trying not slip up.”
"(Live Oak coach) Michele (Yawn) does a good job with them, and she’ll have them ready, and hopefully we’ll be ready. Hopefully it will be another good game. Obviously, we want to come out on top.”
Denham Springs doesn't play until 6 p.m. Thursday against the Springfield-Maurepas winner, and Zito said he's ready to get the tournament rolling.
"It’s all solid teams and there are no easy games," he said. It’s going to be an exciting tournament.”
Livingston Parish Tournament Girls Bracket
At Maurepas School
Holden vs. Albany, 3 p.m.
Springfield vs. Maurepas, 6 p.m.
Doyle vs. Live Oak, 3 p.m.
Walker vs. French Settlement, 6 p.m.
Springfield-Maurepas loser vs. Holden-Albany loser, 3 p.m.
Denham Springs vs. Springfield-Maurepas winner, 6 p.m.
Doyle-Live Oak winner vs. Walker-French Settlement winner, 3 p.m.
Denham Springs/Springfield-Maurepas winner vs. Holden-Albany winner, 6 p.m.
Consolation semifinals, 9 a.m.
Consolation final, noon
Third-place game, 3 p.m.
Championship game, 6 p.m.