In 33 seasons coaching the Vermilion Catholic girls basketball program, Kim Guidry recalls one postseason upset most fondly, revealing to her what’s truly possible with belief and a little luck.
It came in the first round of the 2009 Class 1A playoffs, when the No. 25 Eagles traveled to Ruston and knocked off No. 8 Cedar Creek.
“We went over there and came home with the victory, and I thought to myself, ‘It’s all in the mind of the beholder,’ Guidry said. “Because on paper, we shouldn’t have even been close, but Lady Luck’s got to shine your way. If that happens, anything is possible.”
So in her mind, if anything is possible, why can’t VC (27-5) do the unthinkable at noon Friday when they play district rival Lafayette Christian in the Division IV championship at the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria?
The Eagles, searching for their first title since 2013 in their first trip to the state final since 2015, already surprised some by knocking off Houma Christian in the semifinals. But an upset in the final would be epic.
Because it’s not just that the top-seeded Knights (32-5) are one of the top teams in the state regardless of class and are looking to cement a dynasty with its third straight Division IV championships. LCA also hammered the Eagles by 32 points in the regular-season finale Feb. 8.
Guidry said it was perhaps the worst game her group of four seniors, all starters, have played, and it wasn’t just the opponent that overwhelmed them. To her, her players seemed intimidated by the environment at the LCA Sportsplex.
“You go into their place, and they do a lot of things,” Guidry said after the 49-44 victory against Houma Christian in the semifinals. “...They just do things above a normal high school game. So I said, ‘The thing you’ve got to realize is the next time we hope to play them will be in the state finals on a neutral ground, on a bigger court, for all the marbles. So let’s work toward that, and when that happens, we’ll be there to try and play.’ ”
That’s why VC exacting revenge against Houma Christian after losing to the Warriors in overtime in last year’s semifinals didn’t surprise Knights coach Devin Lantier.
“I remember VC playing (Houma Christian) last year in the same game with the same girls and had a 16-point lead (in the first) half,” said Lantier, whose team beat VC in the 2017 semifinals on its way to its first title. “I said, ‘Look, if they can do it then, they can do it again. They can make adjustments and make sure they stay in this game.’ I felt like if they stayed in the game getting into the fourth quarter, that they would have the advantage."
For the Knights, just as it was when they played Central Catholic in the quarterfinals, the key is not overestimating a team it handled the first time. Despite winning by 16, Lantier said his team struggled more than it should have against Central Catholic, which it beat by 43 points during district play.
But Lantier was impressed with how his team responded during a 69-33 win against Ouachita Christian in the semifinals, a game they led 19-1 after one quarter. The Knights boxed out, ran the floor and hustled for loose balls throughout despite a clear talent edge.
But as Lantier will acknowledge, VC has experience Ouachita Christian didn’t have, and as league foes, there won’t be any secrets between the finalists. He’s not expecting to, for example, hold Eagles sharpshooter Ainsley Mallet scoreless like LCA did in the regular season.
“I’ve been preaching this to the girls all year but never more than tomorrow: Defense is going to win this,” Lantier said. “On a bad day, we can score. But on the defensive side, it’s all about effort.
Guidry described finding ways to slow down a well-rounded LCA team like “pulling a magic trick out the hat.” In the first meeting, the Knights outran the Eagles all night, scoring 12 buckets on transition layups alone.
Guidry wants to make LCA earn their points and avoid a “track meet,” but defending the Knights in the half court, considering their size advantage, is just as much of a chore.
“It’s kind of like picking your poison. Would I rather them shoot a two-foot shot or a 30-foot shot?” Guidry said. “I’m hoping that maybe their shooting percentages won’t be as good in such a big arena, versus inside the paint. That’s all a part of Lady Luck. If they’re hot, they’re going to be hard handle in any aspect of the game. But we won’t know that until 12 o’clock Friday.”