First-year McKinley girls basketball coach Krystal Huggins was already looking at film Monday afternoon and preparing to take her team on a lengthy road trip to start the Class 5A state playoffs.
Then she received what Huggins regarded as a better-case scenario: The No. 20 Lady Panthers would indeed be on the road, but the trip was shortened considerably with a cross-town drive to No. 13 Scotlandville once the LHSAA released its pairings.
“It was a total shock,” Huggins said. “I was watching film on Ponchatoula, and then I saw the bracket and saw it was Scotlandville. It’s not at home, but’s a hometown game, and our fans can get there to see us.”
McKinley (22-8) is one of 24 local-area teams headed to postseason play with the Lady Panthers traveling to Scotlandville (16-14) in a battle of teams from opposing local 5A districts Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
“I told them after the district championship there’s a chance we could be on the road,” Huggins said. “The girls were ready to play whether we were at home or on the road. We did a much better job on the road than we did at home.”
St. Michael the Archangel garnered the area’s highest seed at No. 2. The Lady Warriors (24-8) open Class 4A playoff action at home Thursday at 6 p.m. with No. 31 Grant (16-13).
“This is the toughest schedule I’ve given any team in 15 years,” St. Michael coach Tami Reynolds-McClure said. “I wanted to make sure, win or lose, that these girls were prepared to see where they stood.”
Reynolds-McClure, whose team’s riding a 10-game win streak, acknowledged that advancing through the Class 4A bracket is not for the faint of heart.
“It’s a tough bracket,” she said. “Class 4A is loaded from No. 1 through 18. It could be anybody’s for the taking.”
District 4-5A co-champion Denham Springs (26-3) earned a No. 3 seed and home game with No. 28 Sulphur (14-14), while fellow co-champ, No. 15 Zachary (23-9), hosts No. 18 Landry-Walker (23-3).
East Ascension (14-12) earned the distinction of being the No. 32 team in Class 5A and travels to No. 1 Mandeville (27-1).
Co-champions University High, the two-time Class 3A state champion, and Parkview Baptist led a four-team contingent from District 6-3A that also included Brusly and Donaldsonville.
The No. 3 Lady Cubs (24-8) host No. 30 Academy of Sacred Heart-New Orleans (19-7), while the No. 4 Lady Eagles (21-10) entertain No. 29 Caldwell Parish (14-14).
District 9-3A runner-up Albany (23-8) drew a sixth seed and will host No. 27 Avoyelles.
District 7-2A champion Madison Prep Academy (27-4) made a smooth transition from Class 1A to 2A, going undefeated in league play and landing a No. 6 seed with the Lady Chargers hosting No. 22 French Settlement (18-12) Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
“We’re just ready to go play and see where we’re at,” MPA coach Dwayne Hayes said. “We want to try and go as far as we can go and we’re going to take it one game at a time. We’re not going to overlook anybody. We’re going to play as hard as we can play things work out.”
No. 9 Episcopal (21-7), the District 7-2A champion, hosts No. 24 Mangham (11-10) in a Class 2A opener, District 7-1A co-champion Southern Lab (23-5) is seeded ninth and hosts No. 25 Central Catholic-Morgan City (14-12) in Class 1A action.
District 7-B champion Holden (22-6) received a No. 4 seed and first-round bye and faces the Hathaway-Forest winner in regional play next week.