When there’s a tense moment in during a timeout, Iota girls basketball coach Meghann LeJeune can usually pick out the distinct voice in the team’s huddle.
Typically, it’s junior forward Whitney Landry serving as a calming influence to both her coach and teammates.
“If we have to draw something up at the last second, she’ll say, ‘Coach give it to me, I’ve got it,’ ” LeJeune said of Landry. “She’s one of those players you love to coach, and the team has a lot of respect for.”
Iota’s postseason road to the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament — its first in four years — has been devoid of such tense moments.
However, should the No. 1 Lady Dogs (27-5), who face No. 4 Parkview Baptist (24-10) on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center, find themselves in such a predicament, they’ll know exactly where to turn.
“I know the girls follow me, so I have to lead by example,” Landry said.
To her classmates and teammates, Landry is simply known as “Maw” a nickname that’s stuck since middle school to the point that people rarely refer to her by Whitney any longer.
“I wore this big jersey to school one day,” Landry said. “People said I walked like a Maw and ran like a Maw-Maw. That was it.”
Guard Cambri St. Andre is the team’s lone senior, but Landry said she’s Iota’s oldest player. With that distinction has come the responsibility for the jovial 5-foot-8 forward to lead the Lady ’Dogs by action and example.
It’s a characteristic Landry immediately took to heart once LeJeune welcomed her into the program three years ago as a freshman starter.
“She’s a true leader that gets the team going. They listen to her,” said LeJeune, a former Iota player. “A lot of times you have leaders that don’t know how to motivate other people. She’s really good about that, and what she says is what goes.”
Said Landry: “When coach tells us it’s time to be serious, I tell them it’s time to get focused. I have to be the one to step up and get them right.”
For a team without a tremendous amount of size, Landry gives Iota’s interior game plenty of bite with an improved post game, along with the ability to step out and knock down jump shots.
She leads Iota in both scoring (14 ppg) and rebounding (seven per game), but Landry is the first to admit her success is tied to the team’s ability to make perimeter shots where Madeline Gatte and Avery Wriborg are two of the Lady ’Dogs’ top 3-point shooters.
“Teams can’t stop all of us,” Landry said. “They try to take away our shooters, and that leaves me open. If they try and take me away, then it leaves someone open.”
Since the start of the playoffs, Landry has taken her game to another level, averaging 21 points in Iota’s three victories. She exploded for a season-high 30 in a 65-42 regional victory over Iowa, setting the tone for the pursuit of the program’s 17th trip to the Top 28.
“I feel like with everyone following me, I’ve had to pick up my game so they can all pick up theirs as well,” Landry said. “My coaches never let me forget that.”