LEBEAU — During her 23 years as girls basketball coach at North Central, Vanessa Taylor has established a tradition of success.
Banners in the school gym celebrate several trips to the Top 28 state tournaament, 17 district titles in the past 20 years and a 175-22 record over a five-year span.
In 2015, the Hurricanes won their most recent state title, running the gauntlet as the No. 1 seed in Class 1A.
North Central is 16-7, 3-0 in District 5-1A, and ranked second in the state, which is a good place for her team, Taylor said.
"It's what I want," she said before Friday's 67-27 rout of Opelousas Catholic. "There's a lot of pressure when you're No. 1.
"This group of girls has trouble when they're No. 1, so I was looking to be No. 2 or 3. I'm happy where we're at."
After the fifth-seeded Lady Canes blew out 28th-seeded Varnado 89-21 in the first round last year, they were upset at home by 12th-seeded Jonesboro-Hodge in the second round.
"Last year we were disappointed," said Taylor, whose squad hadn't lost in the regional round since 2011.
"This year, I have four seniors. Two of them (Frandreka Keller and Diamond Nevills) were on our last state championship team when they were in the seventh grade. They're hungry. They want to get back there again."
While North Central's record isn't as impressive at first glance as that of No. 3 East Iberville (26-4) or No. 4 Merryville (21-5), the Lady Canes are ranked higher because of their strength of schedule.
North Central's losses came at the hands of 3A top-ranked Northwest, 5A No. 12 Lafayette High, 4A No. 11 Opelousas and 5A schools New Iberia and Central-Baton Rouge.
The Lady Canes lost to Northwest and Lafayette High twice and dropped four of the seven games by a total of nine points.
On Friday, North Central raced to a 37-3 lead against Opelousas Catholic (14-9).
Ya'Jaia Goudeau paced the Lady Canes with 27 points, followed by Keller (17), Nevills (11) and Katelyn Harrison (10).
"Keller has gotten playing time since she was in eighth grade," Taylor said. "She's averaging 27 points per game and was district MVP last year."
Keller is lightning-quick at point guard, while Nevills is a physically-dominant inside player who can also pass the ball effectively and shoot it from the outside.
"Nevills is my rebounding and post player," Taylor said. "Goudeau and Harrison are sophomores. They're big offensive contributors."
In a 72-52 win at Rapides last week, Goudeau scored 34 points with six 3-pointers. On Friday, she scored the game's first six points and had 19 by halftime.
"Derynesha Tezeno is is my defensive specialist," Taylor said. "She blocks shots and steals balls."
Tezeno's brother, Derrick, is an all-state junior on the top-ranked North Central boys team.
"Their dad was a beast," Taylor said. "He was a man playing with boys back in the day."
The North Central coach says her team is in a good position with the playoffs drawing near.
"I like the fact that they didn't peak early," she said. "They're coming together as a team right now. The chemistry is really good. They look for each other. Our post players have no problem rebounding the ball and getting it out to the guards, which is important because most of our offense is in transition.
"We're capable of shooting the ball outside but most of our points come from transition, and we rely heavily on our defense so we can score. I mix the defenses up. We do some zone, some man and some pressing. In past years, everybody knew North Central as a pressing team. This group, not so much. They can do it, but it's not their favorite thing."