Family Christian could have been defined by two negative factors — inexperience and the lack of recent girls basketball playoff success.
The Flames beat those long odds to advance to the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Basketball tournament for the first time in school history.
Third-seeded Family Christian overcame some first-quarter jitters and then ran away with a 67-33 victory over No. 6 St. Joseph’s-Plaucheville in a Division V quarterfinal game Tuesday night at FCA.
“To be where we are now based on where we were 2½ years ago when I came back is amazing,” FCA coach Steve Rachal said. “We basically had to build things from the ground up. None of the girls really knew basketball.
“They couldn’t dribble. They’re still learning and this is a huge step for the program. There were a little nervous, but once they got through that they executed the things they know.”
With the win, Family Christian (20-11) advanced to play No. 2 seed Family Community (14-10) of Monroe when the LHSAA tourney begins next week in Alexandria.
Because Rachal is also the FCA boys coach, he is pulling double duty. His seventh-seeded boys (13-28) host No. 10 Grace Christian (5-26) at 6 p.m. Friday for a regional playoff game that would normally be played next week.
Should Family Christian win its Friday boys game, it would advance to a quarterfinal set for Feb. 28-March 1, allowing time between for the girls semifinal game.
Rachal said he understands the criticism of the LHSAA select/nonselect split that puts more teams with losing records in the playoffs and the smaller playoff brackets.
But for a young girls team made up primarily of sophomores or younger, there is a benefit. Jamila Smith leads the Flames with a 23.2 scoring average. One of Rachal’s daughters, Lexi, is next at 14.2. His middle school daughter, Lauren, scored 15 points in the second quarter of Tuesday’s game, providing the spark the Flames needed.
“I know people say the playoffs are watered down and I understand that,” Rachal said. “We play in the system we are given by the LHSAA and try to make the best of it. And this means a lot to the girls.”
Top-seeded East Iberville (31-4) of Class 1A can follow FCA’s lead to a first LHSAA tourney berth with a win Thursday night. The Tigers host No. 9 Haynesville (20-6) for a 6 p.m. quarterfinal.
Getting to the quarterfinals was not easy for EIHS. Taylor Gordon’s buzzer-beater lifted the Tigers to a 32-30 win over Delta Charter on Monday night.
Meanwhile, Alexius Horne scored 38 points in Denham Springs' 57-35 win over Northshore Monday. Sixth-seeded DSHS (26-5) travels to No. 3 Ouachita Parish (29-5) for a 5A quarterfinal set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
Another Cubs’ berth?
Third-seeded University High (22-10) looks to extend the area’s longest string of consecutive girls tourney appearances to seven. UHS hosts No. 6 Loyola Prep (21-10) also at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Kennedy Paul scored her 1,000th point Monday in the Cubs’ 86-28 win over Parkview Baptist in Monday’s Division II regional game.