MAUREPAS – Denham Springs High coach Blake Zito didn’t want to say his team is playing its best ball at the right time, but against Albany, it was pretty close.
The Lady Jackets used their size advantage and transition game to cruise to a 53-25 win over the Lady Hornets at the Livingston Parish Tournament on Friday at Maurepas.
“I know (Albany coach) Stacy (Darouse) doesn’t want to hear that, but that was the best,” Zito said. “It’s not about the shots falling or the turnovers. We kept our turnovers down. That’s why I say it’s the best we’ve played. We executed (Friday) better than we have all year.”
It was just the opposite for Albany, which had no players score in double figures.
“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean, so when you have that kind of night against a really good team like Denham, you’re going to see a lopsided score,” Darouse said. “I thought we had periods where we did some really good things defensively, and then I felt like our shooting woes frustrated us a little bit, and we forgot our scouting report and game plan a little bit and let them do some things that they do very well. We were fighting an uphill battle.”
Denham Springs faces Walker in the championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday, while Albany meets Doyle in the third-place game at 3 p.m.
As far apart as the final margin wound up, Albany (8-3) trailed 11-10 on Haley Meyers’ free throw with 5:30 to play before halftime.
From there, Desiree Jones’ putback keyed a 15-1 run to end the first half as Alexius Horne’s steal and layup put Denham, ahead 26-11 at the break.
“It was early in the second quarter, and it was 13-10, and we got two really good looks from the 3-point line and missed them both, and I felt like that was a huge momentum shift for us in terms of letting some air out for us,” Darouse said. “It was a little bit frustrating for us. “I think if we could have nailed one of those and made it a tie game, it might would have been a different game at least for longer, but that’s why you play the game.”
Zito praised his team’s effort during the run, which came as Albany went to its pressure defense.
“I know we had the size advantage, but at the end of the day, Albany gives you a lot of trouble because they try to pressure you and try to get you out of what you want to do, and lately we haven’t been able to do what we want to do without the pressure,” Zito said. “So to do that with them scrambling like they were, it’s a big jump for us in the right direction.”
“They had a couple of good looks, and that’s what stretched our lead is they missed a couple shots they normally make,” Zito continued. “Size, that shows up every night, so that’s the thing that we’ve got to use …”
Darouse said her team’s effort in the press could have been better.
“They (DSHS) ran the floor really well tonight, and I’m a little bit frustrated with that because that’s something we do,” she said. “We should be doing better than them. That was a sore spot for me. We didn’t run the floor like I wanted us to. We backed off of them. We didn’t put the kind of pressure that we normally put on because I don’t think we were sure of ourselves.”
Denham worked its inside game coming out of halftime as Horne and Kate Thompson hit baskets, sparking a 6-0 burst that ended on a pair of free throws by Horne, making the score 32-13.
Horne led DSHS with 16 points, while Jones added 12 and Thompson 10.
“That’s big, because they can’t just stop one person,” Horne said. “They’ve got to worry about everybody else that’s around us. There’s no plan to stop one person. Once I’m not open, another person is going to be open.”
A basket by Albany’s BrookeLynn Saxon stopped the run, but DSHS took off on another one from there, relying mainly on its transition game during an 8-0 burst that pushed the lead to 40-13.
“We haven’t done that,” Zito said of expanding the lead with the transition game. “Whether we’ve had opportunities to push, we never finished. We couldn’t get people in the right spots, get on the block, get ready to catch and finish, and tonight, I saw Kate Thompson making power moves around the rim, Maddie Howell, our guard, catch and finish around the rim. If teams are going to pressure, we have to make sure they pay the price on the other end, and tonight, we did that.”
The teams traded 3-pointers as Layla D’Fonseca hit one for Albany, and Maddie Howell connected on one for Albany before Devyn Hoyt’s trey at the buzzer made the score 43-19.
Denham went back to its inside game to start the fourth quarter, extending the advantage to 53-21 on Trenisha Muse’s basket before both coaches emptied their benches.
The Lady Jackets relied on their inside game early, jumping out to an 8-0 lead Horne’s basket. Denham led 10-2 at the end of the first quarter as Albany’s only points came on free throws by D’Fonseca and Maddy Oubre.
Albany cut the lead to 11-10, sparked by Woods, who scored all five of her points during the run. Hoyt and D’Fonseca each had five points for the Lady Hornets.
Zito is well aware of the challenge ahead in Walker.
“It’s going to take a great effort from us to match them,” he said. “They’re well-coached. They’ve got all the pieces. We’re going to have to play like we play like we played tonight and bring another notch or level. I know the atmosphere in here is going be electrifying. That’s what I told the girls. At the end of the day, I know the parish tournament means a lot to our school, it means a lot to the community. It means a lot to the parish, but our goal ultimately is to make a run in the playoffs, so this one game doesn’t mean everything, but it creates a playoff atmosphere. We want as many games like that, so that we are ready to go when it comes February, mid-February when we’re playing playoff games, and I know tomorrow night, we’re going to have our hands full.”