LAFAYETTE — Separate strategy sessions that involved the Acadiana Stars and a member of the Southland Conference have played a part in creating two teams that want to take the next step to a Women’s Basketball Invitational title.
McNeese State University women’s basketball coach Brooks Donald-Williams was a coach on the Acadiana Stars AAU team under Louisiana-Lafayette coach Garry Brodhead. After Brodhead completed a decade-long run as the coach at Teurlings Catholic High School, Donald-Williams hired Brodhead for his first college job. They teamed up again to help McNeese post a pair of 26-win seasons from 2010-12.
The Cajuns (20-12) and Cowgirls (18-13) will clash at 7 p.m. Saturday at Earl K. Long Gym with the winner moving on to the WBI semifinals. “Without that job at McNeese, I wouldn’t be here,” Brodhead said. “I always enjoy it when we play against people I know who are good coaches and are good ambassadors for the game.”
The Cowgirls rebounded from a Southland Conference tournament loss to Houston Baptist with an opening-round 87-70 triumph over Furman University on Thursday night. McNeese point guard Jayln Johnson had 16 points — with a lot of that damage coming from the charity stripe. Johnson made 11 free throws in 14 attempts. Brodhead has seen Johnson’s quickness matched against Cajuns’ guard Kia Wilridge, who averages 2.9 steals. The two played for the Acadiana Stars. “Kia against Jayln … I saw them get in a fight at 10-years-old, but they like each other,” Brodhead said.
The opportunity to play McNeese in a postseason tournament is a game that Wilridge said the Cajuns are craving. “We have been wanting to play them,” she said.
The Cajuns’ quest to keep moving in the tournament will partially depend on keeping tabs on McNeese guard Allison Baggett, who is the Cowgirls’ leading scorer at 16.1 points a game. She makes 34 percent of her 3-point attempts and 87.8 percent from the free-throw line. “Their four and five (power forward and center) are hybrids (who play inside and outside),” Brodhead said. “And the Baggett kids will shoot.”
The Cajuns are coming off a second-half performance against UT-Pan American that saw them shoot 71 percent. Keke Veal had 12 points and five assists in that win. For Veal, who averages 14 points a game, getting to 20 wins and pushing forward to the second round of the WBI is also part of a longer-term plan. “We always talk about leaving a legacy, so we plan to keep going,” Veal said.