HAMMOND — You go girls.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament was an unexpected success story for Baton Rouge.
A year ago, just two local teams advanced to the tourney. There was quality, to be sure, with University High winning a Class 3A state title and Walker finishing as the 5A runner-up.
Consider this fact — area teams matched that total on Friday night at SLU’s University Center when Holden won a Class B title and Denham Springs finished as the 5A runner-up.
Two more teams, Madison Prep and Parkview Baptist, lost in title games, but the BR contingent of six teams in the tourney was three times as many as 2015.
This tournament was about more than numbers and titles. Madison Prep and Parkview experienced success in their tourney debuts. That’s no easy task on Louisiana’s biggest stage.
It’s no secret that experts considered girls basketball in the BR area to be in a bit of a down cycle in recent years. You’d have a few good teams and notable players, but nothing close to what it was in the early 2000s when stars like Seimone Augustus, Quianna Chaney and others blazed a trail to Hammond.
Of course, there are other local teams on the rise that will be looking to make their mark next season.
Boys basketball typically gets the lion’s share of attention based on a rich tradition that continues next week at the Boys Top 28 tourney in Lake Charles.
Suffice it to say the future looks awfully good for the girls too.
Holden is a tight-knit community and the girls basketball team that won a Class B title illustrates just how far family ties can go.
It starts with Holden coach Pam Forbes and her husband, Craig, who serves as assistant coach.
Their daughters, Shelby and Taylor, are freshmen reserves. Kaylee and Jaycee Hughes are their nieces. So is title-game MVP KK Kropog.
But the long-running story goes back to 1972 when Forbes’ aunt, Sharon Green Courtney led Holden to a Class C title. Courtney’s daughter, Krystal, who went on play at Southern Miss, was part of Forbes’ 1996 and 1997 Class B title titles.
Another daughter, Cassie, helped lead Holden’s 2006 Class B title team and played at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Kaycee and Jaycee Hughes are the daughters of Krystal Courtney Hughes.
The title was the fourth for Forbes.
“It’s all about our community,” she said. “The people in Holden allow us to coach their children and I’m not sure we’d do it anywhere else.”
LHSAA and legislative matters
The Legislature’s first notable salvo after the LHSAA vote to expand its split championships to include basketball, baseball and softball is out there.
Rep. Kirk Talbot of River Ridge proposes House Bill 863, which would prohibit public and nonpublic schools that receive state funds and are approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary education from being members of an athletic organization that subdivides into select and nonselect groups for the playoffs. Depending on how you look at it, this proposal could end the split or the LHSAA.
Another item that would put the LHSAA under state control is also expected, along with up to three or four other pieces of legislation.
So let the other games begin.
Her team did not win a state title, but Merryville’s Andrea Cournoyer put on an impressive show, scoring a game-high 35 points and setting a two-game tourney Class 1A record with 69 points.
The sophomore was 12-for-26 from the field and made five 3-pointers.Her 69 points in two tourney games, surpassed the previous record of 66 points set by Walker’s Vida Foster in 1967.
Michael Smith went 4-for-4 with a two-run home run and Dwain Varisco went 3-for-3 with two RBIs to help St. Michael beat Catholic High 12-3 in one notable nondistrict baseball game last week.
Evan Becnel got the win and Cayde Miller picked up the save.