John Curtis does have a preference of whom it would like to play in its pursuit of history in the Division I girls basketball state final if, of course, the two-time reigning state champions advance beyond Thursday’s semifinals versus St. Joseph’s.
But the top-seeded Lady Patriots insist that they won’t be peeking ahead past the fifth-seeded Redstickers from Baton Rouge as they seek to become the first girls basketball team at the River Ridge school to win a third consecutive state title.
Tipoff against St. Joseph’s is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. in the Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament being staged at Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria.
“We can’t get too confident or too comfortable,’’ said junior forward Jerkalia Jordan, a two-time Class 5A All-State selection, who is one of three Curtis starters who also started on the previous two state champions. “We know that everyone is looking to come at us and knock us down. That would be a big upset.
“So we don’t look ahead because we’re the main ones with a target on us. We try to focus on what we have in front of us and then worry about what we have next. We’re not going to skip over anyone because everyone is going to be a challenge. We’re not going to underestimate anybody.’’
Curtis (27-4) enters the semifinals riding a seven-game win streak in postseason play that includes a pair of lopsided quarterfinals victories against St. Joseph’s that began each of the previous two championship runs.
The disparity in those 72-30 and 53-24 decisions in 2018 and 2017 play no role, however, in determining who advances to Saturday’s noon championship game against the winner between Curtis fellow Catholic League rivals, No. 2 Dominican (24-6) and No. 3 Mount Carmel (21-9).
“I’m pretty sure that some of our players are looking forward to the state (final) game because it might be against Dominican or Mount Carmel, but we’re not going to overlook St. Joseph’s,’’ said senior guard Salma Bates, another of the Curtis starters on the previous two state champions. “St. Joseph’s is a pretty good team. They’re capable. If we don’t come out like we normally come out, they could beat us.’’
St. Joseph’s (14-18) earned its place in the semifinals by upsetting No. 4 seed Chapelle 49-34 at Chapelle eight days ago on Feb. 20 while Curtis was dispatching No. 8 Evangel, 84-24, two days earlier in another quarterfinals pairing. The Red Sticks entered their playoff opener having lost five of their past six regular-season games.
“We remind the girls all of the time that despite how successful we’ve been that this is a new team,’’ Curtis coach Barbara Farris said. “Every year every team gets better. So it would be unrealistic and arrogant for us to assume that it’s guarantee that we’re going to be playing in the finals.’’
The Lady Patriots need look no further for proof than a 45-44 loss to Mount Carmel in District 9-5A play six weeks ago. The defeat proved consequential in denying the three-time Catholic League champions from finishing undefeated in district play for a third consecutive season.
“The loss to Mount Carmel I would hope humbled them to the point to know that if you don’t show up and you don’t execute (that) you give anyone a chance to beat you,’’ Farris said. “That is something we’ve been drilling home over the years even though we’ve been very successful.’’
“Teams have to show up and play their best against us because we’ve built a reputation of being really aggressive and a hard-nosed defensive team and smart and disciplined on offense,’’ Farris said. “So if you think that you’re just going to show up, you can’t. You have to bring your best because we’re going to try to perform at our best.
“So it would be arrogant on our part to think that it’s a given that we’re going to do anything because you just don’t ever know. You don’t know if the ball’s going to fall your way. You don’t know if you’re going to get fouls.
“You don’t know if people who you depend on for offensive output are going to be hitting that day. You don’t know if your defense is going to be into it. You just never know. That’s the beauty of sport. On any given day, anyone can be a star.’’
And if the stars align and Curtis advances to the final?
“I want to play Mount Carmel,’’ Jordan said. “They got us one time. We got them back (39-24). I want to play them. With no disrespect to anyone, I feel like it would be a better game against Mount Carmel.
“It would be two very good teams, two competitive teams. Mount Carmel has a really good team this year. So it would be two really good teams going head to head and a good game to watch for everybody.’’
“We’re playing really well and we’re playing as a team,’’ said senior forward Abryhia Irons, the third Lady Patriot who started on the previous two championship teams. “We’re playing collectively. I just think that if we continue to play the way we’ve been playing that everything will be fine, that we’ll come out with the three-peat.’’
Like Bates and Jordan, Irons would prefer a third meeting against Mount Carmel rather than Dominican, but ...
“Either game is going to be a hard match-up,’’ Irons said. “The challenge is to make sure we get there first.’’