Central Catholic's Yani Johnson
(The Daily Review/Corwin Murray)
Lady Eagles navigating tough schedule
The Central Catholic girls basketball team has faced a brutal nondistrict schedule this year, but assistant coach Joe Joes said he thinks the Lady Eagles will be better for it come playoff time next month.
The Lady Eagles have faced a slate that includes twice facing defending Division IV state runner-up Houma Christian, ranked No. in Division IV; Vermilion Catholic, No. 3 in Division IV; St. Thomas More, No. 5 in Division II; Doyle, No. 1 in Class 2A; and South Terrebonne, No. 4 in Class 4A.
And the Lady Eagles aren’t done with challenges as their next contest is against Class 4A’s fifth-ranked squad, Assumption, while Central Catholic will meet Vermilion Catholic in league play along with defending Division IV state champion and top-ranked Lafayette Christian and Highland Baptist, ranked No. 8 in Division IV.
“For me, I don’t have excuses,” Jones said of the schedule. “What I want to do is just for the girls to learn. When you learn, it will help you out in the long run. We’re going to do good in our playoffs.”
Jones said last week that he is happy with his team’s progress against quality opponents.
“Progress wise, I think we’re on pace,” Jones said. “We could be probably a little bit ahead, but we have young girls. We have some young girls, and they’re getting playing time.”
He said getting those players on the court is key.
Wednesday, the Lady Eagles snapped a five-game losing streak against that tough predistrict schedule with a 70-41 victory against St. John at home in nondistrict play.
“I can tell you one thing: I hate to see the team that (sees) us in the playoffs with our record because they’re going to think, ‘well, we can’t play,’ and that’s not the case,” Jones said last week. “We just had a rough schedule, and here again, it’s not excuses, but I think in the long run it’s going to help us.”
The Lady Eagles coaching staff this season consists of first-year head coach Melony August and Jones as an assistant along with fellow assistant coaches Johnnie Johnson and Stacey Landry.
While the Lady Eagles roster does have plenty of youth, including four junior high players on their team, they do return experience from a year ago.
Headlining that group is junior post player Yani Johnson, a first-team All-District 7-1A selection a year ago who earned honorable mention Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 1A All-State honors. As a sophomore, Johnson averaged a double-double with 15.4 points and 12.2 rebounds, while she dished out 1.23 assists per contest.
Also back is sophomore Jalaysia “Lay” Bertrand, a second-team all-district selection a year ago.
The Lady Eagles rotate eight players in their starting lineup this year. Those include juniors Caitlyn Picou and Lexi Landry, sophomore Riley Jo Theriot; freshman Aaliyah Poole, Bertrand, seventh grader Laurielle Bias, Johnson and senior Sydney Williams.
Other members of the squad are senior Caroline Green, eighth graders Charlotte Callais, Bri Johnson and Maddie Landry and seventh grader Kamille Lightfoot.
Jones said the team’s younger girls have been learning from its older one’s
“Overall, when we get to district, we’ll be alright,” Jones said.
In district play, the Lady Eagles compete with Lafayette Christian, Highland Baptist, Hanson Memorial, Vermilion Catholic and Gueydan.
While Lafayette Christian is the top team in the state, Jones said he thinks his squad will be competitive with the defending state champions.
“When we’re on and playing, we can play with anybody,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it.”