Win one and next stop: Hammond.
The slogan may not catch on, but all nine Baton Rouge area teams set for Thursday’s girls quarterfinal basketball playoff games want it to be their reality.
Past history, experience and inexperience must take a back seat because berths in next week’s Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament set for Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center in Hammond are on the line.
“To be honest with you, we haven’t talked about the last two,” University High coach Bonita Johnson said about winning the past two Class 3A championships. “Getting to this one. … That’s what we’re focused on.”
The third-seeded Cubs (26-8) are Baton Rouge’s only defending champions. UHS hosts sixth-seeded Albany (25-8), at 6 p.m.
Class 4A St. Michael the Archangel (26-8) is Baton Rouge’s highest seed, but will travel to play No. 7 Warren Easton (24-10) at 6:30 p.m. at Mount Carmel.
Five games are set for the Baton Rouge area. The Albany-University game is one of two 3A quarterfinals. No. 4 Parkview Baptist (23-10) hosts 12th-seeded South Beauregard (21-12), also at 6.
Class 5A Denham Springs (28-3), a No. 5 seed, hosts No. 4-seeded Barbe (30-2), while another Livingston Parish school, No. 4-seeded Holden (23-6) hosts No. 5 Midland (23-7). Both games also start at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, 14th-seeded White Castle (15-14), fresh off an upset win over No. 3 Lafayette Christian, hosts unbeaten Merryville (30-0), a No. 6 seed, also at 6 p.m.
Albany and U-High played in the regular season, but considering the roster changes from a year ago, pregame introductions are a good thing. The Hornets are led by 5-foot-9 sophomore Mahogany Williams, who averages 15 points per game and freshman Camryn Woods, who averages 12.
Chelsea Verrett leads UHS with a 17.0 scoring average, and Kaila Anderson averages 12.0 points and nine assists. Sophomore Faith Kwentua (5-10) has stepped in to help fill the void left by injuries to starters Destiny Ephrom and Alyssa Fisher.
“The story for this group has been to make people believe because we are so young,” Albany coach Stacy Darouse said. “So much has been made of U-High’s injuries that I don’t think people realize how well they’re playing. They’re still a very good team.”
U-High’s Johnson added, “(Albany) isn’t coming to Baton Rouge to lose. It’s going to be a battle.”
Parkview is one of two teams in the quarterfinals for the first time. In Class 2A, sixth-seeded Madison Prep (29-6) plays at No. 14 Jonesboro-Hodge (17-13), also seeking its first berth in a state tournament.
Two teams who played on the road in the last round, Denham Springs and White Castle, face different, yet interesting challenges.
DSHS looks to advance to the Top 28 for the first time in two years. Tremeeka Spikes averages 16 points and eight rebounds for coach Shelly Laprarie’s team.
“(Barbe) played in our tournament early this year, and we’ve played some common opponents,” Laprarie said. “We play a similar style. We’ll definitely have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
White Castle is one of two area 1A teams remaining. Eighth-seeded Southern Lab (25-5) travels to No. 1 Arcadia (29-1) for a 6:30 p.m. game.
WCHS seeks its second straight tourney berth. Merryville has one of the state’s most prolific scorer in Andrea Cournoyer, who averages more than 30 points per game. Brooklyn Falcon averages 17 points and 12 rebounds a game for the Bulldogs.
“Playing at home in front of our fans means a lot,” WCHS coach Tammy Pierce said. “The thing is we’re confident in who we are now. We’ll have a plan for (Cournoyer). We’ll probably use three different players on her.”