NEW IBERIA — At 10:30 a.m., New Iberia’s Kierra Anthony sent Yellow Jackets coach Jeremy Bonin a text message.
“All it said was, ‘Don’t worry about it, I got it,’ ” Bonin said. “I knew right there that if the best player in the state comes to play, those other girls would follow right behind her. That is exactly what happened.”
Anthony dominated West Monroe from the beginning, as the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter. Anthony scored six in the first quarter and 34 in the game as NISH moves on to the Top 28 state tournament with a 54-45 Class 5A quarterfinal win Saturday night.
The Yellow Jackets will play second-seeded Walker, a 50-46 winner over Natchitoches Central at 8 p.m. Thursday in a semifinal game at the Top 28 state tournament at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles
“I just knew I had to give it my all,” Anthony said. “We are trying to make history, and the only way we can do that is if everybody gives it their all.”
Bonin said Anthony made all the right reads and made all the right passes. She said Anthony’s defense was more important than her scoring. West Monroe coach John Green called Anthony “the real deal” and credited her for a strong effort.
“She was amazing,” Green said. “I think everybody knew she was going to throw them on her back, and she did it from the start to end.”
West Monroe began the third quarter on a 12-2 run to cut the NISH lead to 30-24. Bonin said he knew a Green-coached team wouldn’t give up and said their defense created a problem for their inside game.
“They took the lane away and played tough ‘D,’ ” Bonin said. “They forced us to take outside shots that we weren’t making. We just had to lock in and play defense.”
Anthony said her practices with the NISH boys basketball team prepared her to take the game over late in the third quarter. She close the third quarter with seven points to bring the NISH lead back to 13 and her defense helped shut down down West Monroe.
“We had to defend the boys, and they prepared for us today,” Anthony said. “I was really impressed and happy about the way we got after it. We had some mental breakdowns and what not, but we got it together and won the game.
The 1981 NISH girls basketball team was the last team to make it this far, and Bonin said that history is not lost on him. Still, the Yellow Jackets have more basketball to play in a semifinal matchup with Walker, something Bonin said he has been waiting for.
“It means more to our community and school than anyone could ever imagine,” Bonin said. “It means the world for these girls to be able to experience this, but they know all along, the goal has been to play for a state title. Tonight has given us that opportunity.
“We have a Walker team coming up that we have been waiting for. Our girls want it; their girls want it. It’s going to be tough, but it won’t be hard for us to get up for that game.”