DENHAM SPRINGS – A week after getting a tough challenge from Zachary in the penultimate game of the season, Denham Springs faced off against their familiar 4-5A foes in the opening round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
Just like the previous game, the Lady Broncos gave the Yellow Jackets trouble in the second half, but the hosts were able to separate down the home stretch for a 55-41 victory.
No. 4 Denham Springs (25-5) will host No. 11 Northshore, a 67-44 winner over No. 22 Hahnville, in next Monday’s state regional round.
Both Kate Thompson and Desiree Jones led Denham Springs in scoring with 15 points. Thompson finished with 10 points from the field, a 3-pointer and made both of her free throws while Jones scored 12 points from the field and made a trio of free throws.
“We made some adjustments to our offense to get better shots and to keep the ball moving,” Thompson said. “We ran the offense a lot more and worked the ball to get a better shot…definitely better than last week, just a different type of game. It felt good to finally hit some shots.”
Southeastern Louisiana signee Alexius Horne finished with 13 points after finding herself in a bit of foul trouble early on. She scored eight of her points from the field and went 5 of 6 from the free throw line.
“They played strong,” Denham Springs coach Blake Zito said. “I told them in the playoffs not to worry about calls. Don’t ask for calls, make sure you catch the ball strong, you go up strong, and put yourself in a position to score the ball.”
Zachary’s Skye Allen led the No. 27 Lady Broncos (16-17) in scoring with 15 points, while Mya McDaniels supplied 11 points, including a trio of three-pointers.
“Our girls worked hard,” Zachary coach Tami McClure said. “In the beginning, we were just not doing what we needed to do. We did not shoot well tonight, hats off to them and what they did.”
In their meeting last week, Zachary was able to hang tight with DSHS until halftime, forcing the Lady Jackets to come out of halftime on fire to gain any separation.
This time around, DSHS ensured that wouldn’t be necessary by racing out to a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter and led 28-15 at halftime.
Zachary came out on fire in the third quarter, outscoring DSHS 17-12 to cut the lead to single digits and enter the fourth down 40-32.
“My girls kept fighting until the end,” McClure said. “That’s all you can ask for as a coach. We got within six and we fought, but it was just their night.”
At the end of the third quarter, Zachary was threatening to cut the lead to just one possession before Denham Springs held the ball and got a tough basket from Thompson before the buzzer to stop the Broncos’ run.
“Zachary came in here confident like they should,” Zito said. “They played us tough the first time. It was a close game. They know us, it’s not a question of who we’re going to play, I think that gives them confidence. They played really well and they pushed us. Thank God, we played pretty well or we would have wound up on the losing end of that one.”
The Lady Jackets were able to protect their lead and put the clamps on the Lady Broncos, outscoring them 15-9.
DSHS took the air out of the game with lengthy possessions, working for smart shot selections when the opportunity presented itself.
“We knew they were going to make adjustments in the second half,” Thompson said. “So we had to come out and keep beating them on defense to get rebounds.”