Tangipahoa Parish is named for the corn-gathering tribe of Native American Choctaws who inhabited Southeast Louisiana before the parish’s 1869 founding. This week, the name also could mean “Top 28-bound” as three parish teams have a chance to play for girls basketball state titles.
Ponchatoula, St. Thomas Aquinas and Jewel Sumner have advanced to the state semifinals, and they will play at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28, which begins Tuesday in Lake Charles.
The busiest day will be Thursday, when fourth-seeded Destrehan (26-2) takes on No. 1 Ponchatoula (30-3) in a Class 5A semifinal at 4:30 p.m. That game is followed by a 2A semifinal at 6:15 p.m.: No. 3 St. Thomas Aquinas (24-8) vs. No. 7 North Caddo (22-11), the defending state champion.
In Class 3A, No. 5 Jewel Sumner (29-3) will take on top seeded University High (30-2) Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
“I feel like anything can happen in the playoffs. I assume most people didn’t think No. 29 (Lakeview) would make it to the semifinals,” STA coach Melanie Kramer said of the 2A playoffs. “We have a group of girls that works really hard, and they don’t back down from pressure. I like our chances based on those things.”
The Falcons bring a 15-game winning streak into the semifinals and are trying to win their third title in six seasons.
Top scorers for STA are guards Regan Bolton and Courtney Dawsey. Bolton averages 19 points, while Dawsey is at 14. Defensively, the Falcons’ biggest presence is Jada Richard, who adds 10 rebounds and five blocked shots per game.
Ponchatoula is making its first Top 28 appearance since 2009 and seeks its first championship. PHS will take on a familiar foe, 2014 state runner-up Destrehan. The Green Wave lost at Destrehan 73-57 on Dec. 17, a game that PHS coach Patricia Landaiche remembers well.
“They gave us a pretty good whipping,” she said. “We pretty much stunk up the gym that night. (Destrehan) is beatable, but we have to play one of our top games to do it. I’m glad we have time to prepare.”
Jyar Francis leads the Green Wave averaging 21 points, while Airi Hamilton scores 20. The glue for Ponchatoula is point guard Myia Tate.
“She handles the ball real well. She has great court awareness and is able to work the ball to Airi and Jyar,” Landaiche said.
Sumner is making its second Top 28 appearance after losing in the 1989 semifinals. The Cowgirls are out to avenge last year’s 79-56 quarterfinal loss to U-High and are likely to rely on defense.
Sumner opponents average 39.8 points, and the Cowgirls have held 25 of 32 opponents under 50 points. The defense will need to be solid against a U-High team that has won 13 consecutive games since a Jan. 6 loss at Brusly.
The Cubs, who will try to break Sumner’s 18-game winning streak, have scored an average of 75 points during their 13-game run.
Sumner is led by post player Bre-Ashle Jones, who scored 14 in the Cowgirls’ 57-52 quarterfinal win over South Beauregard. Other top players are Diamond Brooks, Kiara Williams and La’Darilyn Goldman.