For three days after its 26-point regional victory, top-seeded University High went back to work without knowledge of their next playoff opponent.
The Cubs fine-tuned areas of their game with an emphasis on the full-court pressure that’s been a hallmark of their success.
University (28-2) finally turned its attention to eighth-seeded Marksville on Friday with an eye on a quick turnaround when the Cubs host the Tigers (22-7) at 6 p.m. Saturday in a Class 3A quarterfinal.
“It’s been a long wait, and I think they’re ready,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “They know the importance of this game. We’ve never played Marksville before. It will be an exciting game for them.”
U-High, the reigning Class 3A state champion, is one of four local/area teams trying to reach next week’s LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
No. 6 Holden (26-8) will also host its Class B quarterfinal with defending state champion and No. 3 Fairview (36-5) providing the opposition at 6 p.m.
“They’re excited,” Holden coach Pam Forbes said of her team. “I feel like our whole community’s excited to host this game. I feel like it’s going to be one of the best quarterfinal games in the state.”
One Livingston Parish team, 5A Walker, punched its ticket to the Top 28 on Thursday. Holden is one of three other Livingston teams playing Saturday. Albany and Doyle both play at 6 p.m. on the road. Class 3A Albany (23-6), the seventh seed, plays at No. 2 Ville Platte (28-4) and No. 8 Doyle (20-12) of 2A faces No. 1 Pickering (27-4).
“Our goal has been to get to the Top 28,” Albany coach Stacy Darouse said. “Our seniors have been all three years, and their goal is to make it four in a row. Ville Platte’s in our way, and we’re going to try our best to take care of that Saturday.”
U-High has won 12 straight, including a a 74-48 regional win at Northwest. Forward Destiny Ephrom was one of four double-figure scorers with 18 points and leads the team for the season with a 16.0 average. Alaine Fisher (12.2) follows, with guards Mikayla Bates (11.3) and Kaila Anderson (11.0).
“They know they’re coming in and playing the No. 1 seed, so they’ll be pumped,” Johnson said of Marksville. “As usual, we’ll have a target on our back. We just have to be ready and not take anyone for granted.”
Albany has kept a reminder of last year’s 73-64 semifinal loss to Ville Platte all season. The Hornets wear purple bracelets (Ville Platte’s primary color) with the score of last year’s game. During games, the bracelets have been tied into the draw strings of the players’ shorts.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to have a little revenge, but it’s not going to be easy,” said Darouse. “Ville Platte’s a great team, and they’re playing at home. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Albany is led by the 17.1 points and 10 rebounds of senior Meme Sykes.
Holden showed Fairview just how much it had improved over last year’s 98-29 loss to the Panthers in last year’s state semifinal. The Rockets ventured to Fairview on Jan. 5 and shaved 52 points off that deficit in a 77-60 loss but realize there’s still work to be done.
“We were young last year when we played them so all the girls that will play Saturday have been on the floor against them,” Forbes said. “The biggest key is protecting the ball on offense. If we don’t, it will be the same song and dance.”