Of her team’s past two title-game appearances Vermilion Catholic’s veteran coach Kim Guidry said nothing compares to the road this year’s team navigated for a return trip.
Because of a winter storm the Eagles had to wait an additional five days to play their Class 1A regional playoff game. That 12-hour round trip to Plain Dealing is part of a three-game, six-day stretch that’s tested the team’s mettle.
Moreover, several of the team’s starters suffered from a bout with the flu before Tuesday’s state semifinal that Vermilion Catholic won 57-46 over White Castle.
“Sometimes you need adversity to appreciate anything worthwhile,” Guidry said. “Sometimes you need that to help you appreciate everything we’ve accomplished.”
Because some of the players that were earlier unaffected by the virus contracted it by Wednesday, the Eagles were not at full strength for a light workout a day later or by Friday.
Regardless if they’re at full strength expect No. 2 Vermilion Catholic (25-4) to give a maximum effort that will require going deeper into their bench when they face No. 1 North Central (29-3) in Saturday’s Class 1A state championship game.
Tip-off for the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament game is 2 p.m. at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“We’re just going to do the best we can,” Guidry said. “We walked through some things with other people in case some of the sick players couldn’t come. We just told the kids to go out, relax and play your best.
“Some of the young ones will be a little nervous. We have some capable kids who can step up and handle the ball and step up and shoot. We’ve tried to get them in and out of games all year for this very reason.”
Senior guard Lexie Langlinais, who played through a mild case of the flu Tuesday, said the team will have to play with a greater focus to combat their latest hardship.
“It’s going to make us want to work harder, work better as a team and bring us closer during the game,” she said. “We’re going to have to work more together”
VC reached its second state-title game in three years, jumping out to a 26-13 halftime lead and holding off a couple of serious second-half surges to turn back White Castle.
The Eagles 1-2 punch of guard Ashailee Brailey, a two-time All-State choice, and center Kaylen Collins combined for 38 points — Brailey 21 and Collins 18 to go with 15 rebounds — with Langlinais’ 11 points including a signature 3-pointer.
“I’m excited they found success in what they do,” Guidry said of her team. “I’m excited about their work ethic and how perseverance pays off and good things can happen. We ended up a step further than we were the year before.”
For the third straight playoff game VC faces a team that likes to push the tempo with full-court pressure, utilizing its athleticism and quickness to do so.
North Central, winners of 19 straight, encountered its closest game (56-40 semifinal win over Arcadia) in more than two months. The Canes mowed through District 5-1A by a 58-point average margin of victory, which narrowed to 40 points in the playoffs.
Six-foot senior center Jazlyn Robertson averages a double-double with 24.7 points and 17.3 rebounds with significant contributions from senior forward Sydney Martin (20.2) and sophomore guard Quaniqua Joseph (15.7).
“We’ll definitely be prepared,” Langlinais said. “It’s going to be challenging because of their height and quickness, but I think we’re going to be ready for them. There’s going to be some pressure on us, but I think we can pull through.”