DENHAM SPRINGS — Finishing as Class 5A state runner-up a year ago came at a price for this year’s Denham Springs girls basketball team.
“There’s more pressure because everyone’s expecting you to get back to the level you were and then succeed,” Denham Springs forward Treemeka Spikes. “It’s (state championship) the goal, but there’s more pressure with it.”
Spikes helped to take the edge off a one-point first quarter deficit, leading a decidedly inside-oriented approach that spurred No. 4 Denham Springs to a 65-30 victory Thursday over No. 29 Thibodaux in the first round of the Class 5A nonselect state playoffs at Grady Hornsby gym.
The Yellow Jackets (27-5) host No. 13 Dutchtown, a 62-43 winner over Fontainebleau, in Monday’s regional round.
Spikes was a tower of strength, leading Denham Springs with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while guard Caroline Taylor scored 15 and forward Maia Robinson added 11.
“I think our kids have really bought into the team concept,” Denham Springs coach Shelly Laprarie said. “They know we’ve got to win as a team, not as individuals. They moved the ball, made the extra pass to get the best shot for us.”
That became evident after a back-and-forth opening quarter in which Thibodaux (17-10) took a 10-9 lead on Karolyn Smith’s layup, marking the quarter’s fifth lead change.
Taylor opened things up for Denham Springs’ offense against Thibodaux’s 2-3 zone, scoring on a 12-foot baseline jumper and adding the first of her three 3-pointers to cap a 7-0 spurt that made it 16-10.
Taylor also assisted on a reverse layup by forward Desiree Jones, the first example of the Yellow Jackets’ unselfish play and intention to score closer to the basket.
Spikes scored eight of her game-high total in the second quarter on shots around the basket to go along with two free throws.
Denham Springs, which shot 63 percent (10 of 16) in the quarter, scored 17 of its 24 points from the lane area for a 33-15 halftime lead after a Taylor three-point play.
“I felt good at halftime, but I told them we had focus on finishing because we hadn’t done that a lot this year,” LaPrarie said. “We’ve kind of let people back in games once we got a big lead.”
Denham Springs’ defense also contributed, limiting Thibodaux to 28 percent shooting (11 of 39) and forcing the Tigers into 18 turnovers.
A 3-pointer from Taylor pushed Denham Springs’s lead to 40-20 — a margin that remained after three quarters (44-24). Denham Springs opened the fourth quarter on a 12-0 run. The Yellow Jackets went on to lead by as many as 37 points (63-26) on five straight points from Kate Thompson and an 8-footer from Payton Chustz.
“We realized our shots weren’t going in as much as normal in the first quarter,” Spikes said. “We had to get each other open passes and when we started doing that, it started working more. We started playing more as a team.”