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Advocate Staff Photo by April Buffington-- Albany's Mahogany Williams brings the ball up the court against Denham Springs earlier in January.

Advocate Staff Photo by April Buffington

It would be a bit longer trip this time for their teams and fans, but Albany and Holden once again earned the right to represent Livingston Parish in the annual Top 28 girls state basketball tournament.

Both schools were scheduled to open play at the Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria on Wednesday with semifinal matchups in their respective brackets.

Recent state tournaments were held at the University Center in Hammond.

No. 6 seed Albany (27-5) was scheduled to face District 8-3A rival Loranger, the No. 2 seed, in a Class 3A semifinal for what would be the third meeting of the teams. Loranger handed Albany its only two losses in district play and two of its five for the regular season.

In Class B, Holden (32-1) looked every bit the part of the No. 1 seed in its first two playoff games and was set for a semifinal against No. 4 seed Hicks.

Albany took a similar route to the tournament as last year by going on the road in the quarterfinals and knocking off No. 3 seed Northwest by a 56-44 margin. The Hornets broke open a tight game by outscoring Northwest 22-10 in the fourth quarter.

"A lot of people key on our inside game," Albany coach Stacy Darouse said. "Our guards have been able to step up and give us the balance we need to make them pay."

Guard Camryn Woods had a game-high 23 points in the quarterfinals as Northwest held star post player Natalie Kelly to 11.

The Hornets played that game two days after Albany senior Lacie Randall, a teammate of theirs in previous seasons, was killed in a car accident.

Randall's funeral service was Saturday in Hammond.

"It's been a very emotional week," Darouse said Monday morning in preparation of the state tournament, "but we're looking forward to getting back on the court and trying to win a basketball game."

The Rapides Coliseum was a longtime host of the girls' state basketball tournament but was hosting the event this year for the first time since 1996.

Darouse was returning to the venue for the first time since helping Albany complete a perfect season in 1992 in what was the LSU-bound point guard's final high-school game.

Holden celebrated its fifth state championship at the University Center two years ago, then returned last year and lost in the semifinals.

The Lady Rockets have been a juggernaut all season and kept the dominant run alive with blowout victories over No. 16 seed Converse and No. 8 seed Lacassine en route to the state tournament. Their lone loss this season came at Albany on Jan. 9 in a 63-62 overtime affair.

Jaycee Hughes and K.K. Kropog had 19 points apiece in the Lacassine game. Kaylee Hughes added 15.

"We're very excited, but we realize we've got two more games to play," Holden coach Pam Forbes said. "They've been there before and know what to expect. They know we have to get the job done."

With a victory in the semifinals, the Lady Rockets would face the winner of No. 3 seed Anacoco and No. 7 seed Florien for the Class B title at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Albany was hoping to reach the 3A final at 8 p.m. Saturday against the winner of No. 1 seed South Beauregard and No. 5 seed Madison Prep.

Walker, Denham boys advance

No. 4 seed Walker and No. 16 seed Denham Springs took advantage of playing at home to reach the second round of the Class 5A boys playoffs.

Jalen Cook went for 22 points to lead four Wildcats in double figures as Walker made quick work of No. 29 seed Sulphur in a 72-50 win. Walker led 22-7 after the first quarter.

Back in the second round for the second straight season, the Wildcats (29-4) could reach the 30-win plateau by defeating No. 13 seed St. Amant on Tuesday in another home playoff game.

Denham Springs controlled No. 17 seed Covington throughout a 75-64 victory as the Yellow Jackets enjoyed their first playoff win since 2015. Xavier Miles was a force in the paint as he led all scorers with 20 points.

Unlike the rival Wildcats, Denham would have to hit the road in the second round for a matchup with No. 1 seed Natchitoches Central.

Natchitoches Central ended Walker's season in the second round last year.

Scott Hotard covers sports for The Livingston-Tangipahoa Advocate. He can be contacted at shotard44@gmail.com or livingston@theadvocate.com.