As East Iberville coach Mark Temple was breaking down film to prepare for Thursday’s Class 1A girls title game, his lifelong friend, Grambling assistant coach David Pierre, offered some sage advice.
“He told me, ‘You got this far … go with what got you there,’ ” Temple said. “And I realized he was right. I can watch all the film I want and game plan, but at the end of the day, we have to be us.
“There are some specific things we must do, but if we play the way we’re capable of and do the little things like make free throws and avoid turnovers I like our chances.”
With that said, Temple’s top-seeded Tigers (24-6) take on No. 3 Northwood-Lena (21-3) at 5 p.m. Thursday at SLU’s University Center in Hammond. The game is one of four title games on the first day of finals at the LHSAA’s Girls Basketball tournament.
The 1A contest is special by LHSAA girls tourney standards because it matches two first-time finalists. Northwood made its tourney debut with a 46-39 win over tourney regular Merryville. EIHS ousted reigning champion North Central 52-40 in its semifinal.
Ayleyah Winn leads the Gators with averages of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Northwood coach LaShandra Cooper and her husband and her husband Darius, an assistant coach, have built the Gators program over several years.
“I saw them in person for the first time in the semifinals, but I saw them on film last year because our rival, White Castle, beat them in the playoffs,” Temple said. “Their path to this point has been similar to ours in a lot of ways. We know they will want to put pressure on us to force turnovers and we have to stop No. 25 (Winn).”
The Tigers pulled away from North Central with an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter of their Tuesday semifinal. There were many good things about that effort — including 22 points by Taylor Gordon and Dedreka Wilson’s double-double (18 points, 14 rebounds) — but there were other areas to shore up. EIHS had 19 turnovers and made just 2 of 15 3-pointers.
Temple and his players went over to the stands to celebrate with their fans after the semifinal. He said his players got a “star treatment” from classmates Wednesday.
"I told them on the bus Tuesday to celebrate," Temple said. "They are excited, but they will be ready for practice. They are motivated to win this last one."