When players and coaches dream about playing for a championship, the vision is often in vivid color. It’s no longer a dream for Holden and Denham Springs.
Expect plenty of purple when the two Livingston Parish rivals play in separate title games to highlight Friday action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament.
“We played Denham Springs in the finals of the parish tournament, which is a big deal,” Holden coach Pam Forbes said. “And now we finish the season, both of us playing for state titles on the same night. How great is that?
“All our fans are coming early and planning to stay late. They’ve talked to some of the Denham fans, and they’re coming early. We’ll all be in purple (school colors).”
Action begins at 4 p.m. at SLU’s University Center in Hammond with top-seeded Summerfield (29-1) meeting No. 2 Pleasant Hill (28-11) in the Class C final.
Fourth-seeded Holden (25-6) takes on No. 2 Florien (37-4) in the Class B title game at 6 p.m. At 8 p.m., No. 5 Denham Springs (30-3) plays second-seeded Mount Carmel (28-6) in the 5A final at 8 p.m.
The girls basketball tradition in Livingston Parish includes 15 state titles. Albany has five, followed by Holden and Walker with four each during the LHSAA’s tourney era. JoAnna Tate, who played on the 2006 Holden title team, is now an assistant at Denham Springs.
“This really is special for both schools and Livingston Parish,” DSHS coach Shelly Laprarie said. “We talked about it this morning and we do expect a big crowd and lots of support.”
Delivering for that crowd is the mission. Denham Springs lost to Mount Carmel 70-52 in the 2014 semifinals en route to winning a state title.
Florien and Holden have battled many times over the years, including in a title game when the Rockets won their 1996 title.
“There are some players for them we faced two years ago,” Denham Springs coach Shelly Laprarie said. “No. 14 (Paige Franckiewicz) came in and hit some big 3s for them.
“Now they have more size inside. Mount Carmel gives you a lot to prepare for because they can hurt you outside and inside.
“We also have some size, and I think that adds to it. We’ll come in with a game plan and options we can go to. We’ll keep working. I think we’re a better team defensively than we were two years ago. I’d think that our balance on offense will make it an interesting matchup.”
Franckiewicz averages 13 points a game and Kristen Nuss 10 for MCA. Denham Springs’ Tremeeka Spikes, a 5-foot-10 junior post player, averages 16 points and nine rebounds a game. Lexi McMorris is next with a 13.0 average, while Caroline Taylor adds 11.0.
“I think we’ve come a long way since the start of the year,” DSHS post player Maia Robinson said. “We bought into coach Laprarie’s system and each other. We just need to play our game.”
Holden, fresh off a win over previously unbeaten and nationally ranked Lacassine, must regroup quickly.
“It’s a very different challenge than Lacassine,” Forbes said. “I think both teams play with a lot of intensity. Theirs is based on athletic ability and fundamentals. We do what we do and play with emotion.”
Aja Law, 6-0 post player, leads Florien with averages of 20 points and 11 rebounds for legendary coach Dewain Strother, who has 1,013 wins. Sydney Hayden (5-9) averages 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds for Holden, which gets 10.4 points apiece from Kaylee Hughes and Kaitlyn Kropog.
“I woke up with a smile on my face this morning because we beat Lacassine,” Holden’s Sydney Hayden said. “Today, we’re going back to work.
“I expect to see a sea of purple. That will be awesome.”