Photos: LHSAA basketball finals _lowres

Advocate file photo by ADAM LAU -- Vermilion Catholic coach Kim Guidry

Vermilion Catholic’s girls’ basketball coach Kim Guidry has had several items on her to-do list before the Christmas holidays but never has it included preparing for the opening of district play.

“This is the first time in 30 years we’re playing a district game before Christmas,” said Guidry, whose 7-3 team hosts Centerville at 6 p.m. Friday

The addition of one team — Centerville which extends the league’s schedule to 14 games — has necessitated that the race for the District 7-1A championship begin earlier than its traditional post-January start date.

Centerville (5-3) and Hanson Memorial (3-6) got a head start on the rest of the league, both having defeated Highland Baptist (1-5, 0-2) in recent weeks, while Ascension Episcopal opened district play Thursday against Central Catholic-Morgan City.

“I’d much prefer to play after (Jan. 1) because it gives us another six games under our belts and gives the young kids some experience,” Guidry said. “That’s out of our control.”

VC has experienced some major personnel changes from last year’s team that finished as the Class 1A state runners-up to North Central last season.

Gone are the 1-2 duo of guard Ashailee Brailey and post player Kalen Collins to the junior college ranks, but the Eagles have tried to compensate for their loss in other areas.

With senior guards Kelly White and Leah Camel returning, VC’s been more apt to push the ball in transition and rely on their depth.

“We’ll be able to play 10 to 12 kids,” Guidry said. “We’re playing more up tempo and pressuring the ball. We’ll run in transition. We don’t have the size to sit back in half-court sets.”

Senior guards Leah Camel and Kelly White are returning starters and are two of the team’s six seniors.

“They both play with such heart and soul,” Guidry said.

Camel’s averages 15 points and recently moved took over the team’s point guard duties when promising freshman Jay Demouchet collapsed after a game.

Demouchet, the team’s leading scorer at 16 points, is scheduled to visit with a cardiologist Tuesday to further evaluate her status.

“She said she’s fine and sat on the bench at practice this week,” Guidry said. “Until the doctor clears her, she can’t play. Her life’s more important than a game. It’s an opportunity for somebody to step up and get valuable experience.”

Olivia Chiasson and Bella Doucet, who were reserves a year ago, have adjusted to greater playing roles this season. Freshmen Haley Faulk and Ainsley Mallet have also been called upon in expanded roles.

Two of VC’s three losses have come to Class 3A Erath, including the final of last week’s Vermilion Parish tournament without Demouchet. In the Delcambre Round Robin, the Eagles lost 55-50 to Class 4A Northside, a game they trailed by a point with 30 seconds to go

“They were much bigger than us, and I thought our inside game was good against them,” Guidry said. “Nobody gave us a chance, yet we scrapped and clawed and were in it the whole time.”