Zachary’s girls basketball team doesn’t have to look far to see a reminder the last time the program won a district championship.
It’s hanging on a banner in plain view in their gymnasium for everyone to see: 1996 or before any of the current players were born.
“The kids see it every day,” Zachary coach April Brown Barnes said. “We’ve pointed it out and made it a little more noticeable since we’re in this position to have an opportunity to do something they haven’t been able to do in a long time. The girls realize the opportunity, so they’re looking forward to it.”
Walker doesn’t have quite as long a dry spell – one year to be exact, but the Wildcats (26-5, 9-2) are just as excited and motivated to annex the District 4-5A championship when Zachary (21-9, 9-2) visits at 6 p.m. Friday
“We’re looking forward to it,” Walker coach Korey Arnold said. “Zachary’s a team that’s gotten better throughout the year. They’re going to be prepared; they’re going to play really good defense.”
Catholic (19-6, 6-1) looks to hold onto the District 5-5A lead against McKinley (17-13, 4-3) at about 7:15 p.m. in other local/area action.
Albany (19-8, 7-1) can wrap up the boys District 8-3A title with a win over Amite (15-9, 7-2), while St. Joseph’s Academy (15-11, 8-1) needs a victory at McKinley (8-17, 3-6) to secure the girls District 5-5A crown. Just over three weeks ago Walker handed Zachary a 47-37 defeat, sending the Broncos to their second league loss with games six remaining.
Zachary responded with five wins going into its rematch with Walker, intent on seeing whether a talented wave of freshmen can overcome a more veteran Walker squad that’s won 16 of 18 games on its home floor this season.
The adjustment to losing Alyssa McKneely — the team’s lone senior — to a torn ACL was a gradual one for Zachary, which has relied on as many as nine freshmen to get to this point.
Freshman guard Rayah Haynes leads the Broncos with a 13.9 average followed by freshman forward Bryana Langford at 12.0 points. Junior Tamia Veal tops the team with 9.2 rebounds per game.
“This team has responded,” Brown Barnes said. “We knew the potential and what they could do. It’s great to see them execute and work on the things we mentioned to them earlier. It’s refreshing to put it into play. What better time than now.”
Arnold said his team, rated No. 2 in the LHSAA’s latest Class 5A power ratings, established a set of clear-cut objectives before the beginning of the season.
The Wildcats, who have won eight of their past nine games, gained bragging rights with the Livingston Parish championship and would like to add the District 4-5A title to their wish list along with participating in postseason play.
Walker features a balanced scoring team led by seniors Jamie Gibson (17.1), Kacie Fountain (13.3), Keeona Brown (12.7 points, 10.5 rebounds) — the lone junior — and Southeastern Louisiana signee Baylie Stears (12.3).
“I don’t think it’s going to be a very high scoring game,” Arnold said. “I think it will be more of a defensive game, and whoever makes plays later will probably come out the winner.”