The Northside and St. Thomas More girls basketball teams have been playing partners in the same Class 4A district for several years with the past two seasons providing some dramatic finishes.
That both teams have moved to District 4-4A, more of the same is expected when the Vikings (22-1, 1-0) visit the Cougars (12-4, 1-0) — the top two teams in The Acadiana Advocate’s Class 5A-4A poll — at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“We’ve played a lot of games, and it was time for the district to start,” said Northside coach Gail Montalvo, whose team opened district at Beau Chene with a 60-49 victory. “I hope we come out and play our ‘A’ game like we have for most of the year.”
STM coach Stephen Strojny said the two teams have followed a similar pattern in their series the past two years.
“Last year we beat them by five to eight points at their place, and we beat them in overtime at our place,” he said. “The year before it was the same thing.”
Not only are the two teams waging a battle for district supremacy, but statewide as well.
STM was the state’s top-ranked team in the LHSAA’s first unofficial power ratings but slipped to fourth this week.
Northside is right on STM’s heels, rated fifth on the strength of a 16-game win streak. The Vikings haven’t dropped a game since Nov. 24 when they lost 46-43 to Iota.
“The level of our play has to go up and the ‘A’ game has to be brought,” Montalvo said. “If it’s a ‘B’ or ‘C,’ they’ll (players) be sitting by me.”
The bulk of Northside’s success has been predicated on its ability to play in transition. The Vikings also feature an imposing inside game led by 6-foot-1 senior Brianna Dixon.
Dixon leads the team with a 22-point average with senior point guard Tachiana Ledet contributing 18.
“Dixon has improved tremendously,” Strojny said. “They have another girl that’s 6-1. You don’t see a lot of high school teams in this area that big, active and aggressive.”
STM opened district play Monday with a 49-12 win over Opelousas in which Carly Sloane made five 3-pointers and scored 24 points. Hailey Seymour added seven and Bailey Hemphill six.
The Cougars are looking to fall back on their experience after the Christmas holidays when they took part in the KSA Shootout in Orlando. They went 1-2 against out-of-state competition that in some cases featured potent interior play.
“It’s not like we’re going to be shocked when we see their post players,” Strojny said. “We saw players going to play at some big schools, and that was one of the benefits of going to Orlando. You don’t see that type of post game in this area.”