Most players don’t have an immediate plan for what comes after the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament. Walker High’s Kacie Fountain does.
The senior point guard would rather slice through opposing defenses for a few more days, which makes Thursday’s Class 5A semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Top 28 tournament a priority.
That is when surgery to repair a torn meniscus is the next alternative. Instead of no pain, no gain, the notion some pain to garner the ultimate gain — a state title — comes into focus.
Second-seeded Walker (30-5) meets No. 11 New Iberia (19-13) in a 5A semifinal that closes Thursday’s five-game session at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles. At stake is a berth in the 5A final set for 8 p.m. Saturday. The winner meets the winner of the Destrehan-Ponchatoula semifinal set for 4:30 p.m.
“There was no way I’d miss playing any of my senior year,” Fountain said. “After I got hurt, I went back in the game. We found out it was torn a couple of days later. My doctor didn’t want me to play, but we spent about two or three hours in his office. I had to convince (the doctors) I could put a brace on it and play.”
Fountain and the Wildcats haven’t missed a beat. She averages 13.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists for a Walker squad that also includes 5-foot-10 Jamie Gibson (20.7 points per game), 5-11 Baylie Stears (12.8) and Keeona Brown (12.3).
The fact this is Fountain’s first year at Walker makes her feats more impressive. She grew up in Houston and moved to the New Orleans area before her freshman year.
Fountain played one season at Academy of Our Lady before her family moved to Slidell. She played two years at Northshore High, netting all-district honors as junior. When her father, an air traffic controller was transferred to Baton Rouge, the family moved to Walker.
Fountain’s ability to direct traffic on offense has been valuable for the Wildcats. Walker coach Korey Arnold had no concerns about adding Fountain to a mix of WHS veterans because of her work ethic.
“She had some defensive flaws and some shooting flaws,” Arnold said. “And you never know how a kid who’s a senior will react to corrections and changes.
“Kacie was very open to change, and it really opened up her game. She’s a very coachable kid. Practices here are not fun. Kacie came in, did all the work and fit right in.”
As she straps on a knee brace for yet another game, Fountain’s desire is to make it two more games, not just one.
“I have to play smarter,” Fountain said. “I use more dribbling moves than I did before.It (basketball) is like that. It’s about doing the little things, like rebounding and boxing out. If we can do that, I like our chances.”
New Iberia is in the state tourney for the first time since winning the 4A title in 1980. It is Walker’s first appearance since 2009. Louisiana Tech signee Kierra Anthony, a 5-7 guard, leads the Yellow Jackets with a 20.0 scoring average. Urionne Jolivette (5-10) adds 10.0 per game.
“We feel like they’ve got some great players,” NISH coach Robert Pinckney said. “We’ve got to decide on who we’ve got to help on, who we’ve got to help off of.
“We feel like we can play (with Walker) defensive wise, but offensively we’ve got to take care of possessions. We don’t want to give them easy layups off turnovers. We want to make it a half-court game where they have to run offense against us.”
Arnold said the Wildcats must find a way to contain Anthony. The WHS coach said he isn’t concerned about his team getting caught up in the atmosphere, noting last year’s quarterfinal loss to Destrehan and last week’s quarterfinal win over Natchitoches Central.
“They went to a place where the students are right there on the court in your face, and they handled it (in Natchitoches),” Arnold said. “The kids were devastated by the way the (quarterfinal) game ended last year. This year validated that hard work pays off. They’re ready for this.”
Top-seeded Ponchatoula (30-3) also is making its first tourney appearance since 2009.
Post player Jyar Francis leads the Green Wave with averages of 20.2 points and 12.5 rebounds. Destrehan (26-2) was the 5A runner-up last year and is led by Cara Ursin, who averages 24 points, nine rebounds and seven, assists.