Girls Top 28 tournament: Holden, Madison Prep, U-High enter semifinals in new role — underdog _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Madison Prep girls basketball coach Dwayne Hayes speaks with an official in a game against University High on Dec. 12.

The Madison Prep Academy girls basketball program may still be considered in its infancy stages, turning three years old this season.

But the Lady Chargers (20-4) have certainly displayed signs of coming of age; reaching the final of the East Baton Rouge tournament, leading District 6-2A with a 3-0 mark and holding the LHSAA’s No. 6 unofficial power rating in Class 2A.

“If everything comes together, we should go farther than we did last year,” said MPA coach Dwayne Hayes, who is 62-28 in his third season. “The players are a year older and mature, and it will all depend on the chemistry in the postseason. It’s gone well for the most part.”

Madison Prep, which returns to 6-2A play next Tuesday at East Feliciana, was more than adequately prepared for its move to Class 2A after spending two years in Class 1A.

The Chargers won the District 6-1A championship last season, advanced to the Class 1A state regionals, where they fell 55-28 to White Castle.

With four returning starters, including second team all-state selection in junior Sherry Porter, and the transfer of standout forward Alexis Augustus from Redemptorist, this year’s Madison Prep team has all the elements necessary for a deep postseason run.

“The team is pretty deep,” Hayes said. “There are still a lot of kids that are young. As they mature, it will help us even more.”

Hayes wanted to season his team in preparation for not only district play, but the postseason with a challenging schedule that’s included wins over co-District 4-5A leader Zachary, District 5-5A leader McKinley (twice) and Scotlandville.

The Chargers bolted to a 10-0 start before falling to District 6-3A leading University 50-48 in a game that went down to the wire.

Without the use of four players, MPA lost at District 9-3A co-leader Albany (38-33) before taking part in the Sugar Bowl Tournament, where they went 1-2, falling to Class 5A Mount Carmel (44-35) and Class 4A Karr (58-51).

“We tried to put them in situations they will be faced with after the regular season,” Hayes said. “I’m not upset because we lost to some good teams. They need to understand they’ve got to play every game because people are playing to win.”

The start of district has gone accordingly with MPA mowing down its opposition by an average of 29 points.

Porter has enjoyed another solid season, averaging 18 points. Augustus adds 16 to 17 points per game and sophomore center Dez’Manique Gaines 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Junior guard/forward Jasmine Polk and sophomore guard Kennedy Moore are returning starters from a year ago and have been joined by freshman point guard Kennedi Green.

The Chargers also feature sophomores Ahbeni Williams and Faith Avery, part-time starters a year ago, while fellow sophomores Ryanisha Fleming and Lacoscha Chambers have provided depth along with transfers Shardae Melancon (Redemptorist) and Jaynice Augillard (Lutcher) and freshmen Makayla Marshall and Tarnisha Young.

“We’re trying to keep them motivated, instilling that they’ve got to continue to work,” Hayes said. “We want them to come out and play every game as if it was a championship game.”