Longtime Vermilion Catholic coach Kim Guidry found a lot of value in a 61-58 loss to Class B power Fairview more than three months ago.
Not only did her Lady Eagles show promise in scoring 58 points, but equally encouraging in Guidry’s mind was the 61 points allowed, nearly 15 to 20 points below the opposition’s norm.
“I was impressed,” Guidry said. “I didn’t think we would be able to stay on the floor with them. That’s when I felt in my head we were going to be pretty good.”
Especially on the defensive end of the floor, where Vermilion Catholic has become a constant menace to opponents who bring in high hopes and high-paced offenses, only to fall short of their per-game averages.
It’s a philosophy that’s served No. 2 Vermilion Catholic (24-4) well in helping the Lady Eagles return to Class 1A state semifinals Tuesday against No. 6 White Castle (22-11) in Tuesday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Top 28 tournament.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:45 at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
The winner advances to Saturday’s championship game at 2 p.m. against North Central or Arcadia.
“We work hard and have each other’s backs,” Vermilion Catholic junior forward Kelly White said. “We work at it until we get it right. We never give up. Coach always says that defense wins championships.”
Since the early-season setback, Vermilion Catholic has only twice allowed more than 40 points in any game the remainder of the season.
During the Lady Eagles’ current eight-game win streak, they haven’t yielded more than 36 points and slowed down the high-powered attack of St. Mary’s of Natchitoches in a 41-30 quarterfinal victory Saturday.
“We’ve always talked about defense winning championships,” Guidry said. “You’re not going be on offensively every night you play, but you can hustle and play defense. That takes heart and character, and that’s what we tried to instill in them. Our motto in the playoffs has been: get a stop, get a possession. It helps to curtail offensive opportunities.”
Guidry attributes much of her team’s defensive success to two key components: quickness and desire.
Senior guard Ashailee Brailey, who leads the team with a 22-point scoring average, keys the perimeter defense with Lexie Langlinais and Leah Camel.
Six-foot senior center Kalen Collins complements her 18 points and 10 rebounds with tough interior defense and rebounding and gives the Lady Eagles quite a presence when they switch to an array of their zone defenses.
“They’re fundamentally sound,” White Castle coach Tammy Pierce said of Vermilion Catholic. “We’re undersized. But we told our girls size doesn’t matter. It’s the size of the heart. We’ve told them to go out and stick with the game plan. We feel like we’re a fast team. Four of our starting five run track and we try to use that to our advantage. But we also have to match their intensity.”
Twins Skylar (17.7) and Shylar (16.5) O’Bear will draw plenty of the VC’s defensive attention along with shooting guard Blessing Franklin (10.0).
The Bulldogs have produced at least 50 points in 19 games this season while being limited to less than 40 on two occasions.
“They’re so athletic, we don’t want to get into a track meet which is right up their alley,” Guidry said. “We want to control the tempo of the game and limit them to one shot. We have to limit their transition and not get in a running game. We need to play more controlled and disciplined.”