LAFAYETTE - Hannah Jones admits she was concerned at first just how the players on the Walker girls basketball team would react to the one-year suspension of their head coach, Korey Arnold, Nov. 16 due to alleged recruiting violations.
She need not have been.
The Lady Cats responded in a powerfully positive way, rolling to three victories in three days, including two Wednesday in the St. Thomas More tournament.
"I wasn't quite sure how it (Arnold's loss) would affect them; you never know," said Jones, who will coach the team in Arnold's absence. "But the girls realized that we still have to play basketball and we were fortunate to get three good wins this week that we really needed."
The Lady Cats began the week with a 63-31 thrashing of Terrebonne on Monday and followed that up Wednesday with equally impressive wins over David Thibodeaux Academy (60-21) and Acadiana (63-23).
The victories sent the Lady Cats to 6-0 on the season and gave them a renewed outlook on the season, one in which they hope to surpass their 2017-18 run, which ended in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
"We felt hurt by it (Arnold's suspension) at first," said standout guard Tiara Young, who recently signed with LSU. "But we had to be there for each other and just push through it ... step up.
"It motivated us to keep going and work hard."
Guard Mekayla Rothman agreed.
"It made us play for each other more; it made us play closer together and now we're playing hard," said Rothman, who added "it was a little different for us at first.
"It's a different coaching style ... But it's a good coaching style."
The Lady Cats appeared unfazed by all the distractions Wednesday, brushing aside two opponents who found it impossible to rein in Young and her supporting cast.
Young scored 19 points against David Thibodeaux in the opener and followed with a 25-point effort against Acadiana in a game in which the Lady Rams' most consistent way of scoring was at the free-throw line -- and not that often. The Lady Rams were held to just two points in the final period, despite Jones' substitutions.
Rothman added and Victoria Smith added 13 each in the opener.
Against Acadiana, Rothman had nine and Asia Garner added 11.
"The girls understand what's going on," said Jones, a former player at Walker and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. "They came out here and (are) playing hard for each other and hard for the team. And they're listening.
"They're not getting down on themselves and they're playing hard; and I think it has shown the last few games.
"We're not perfect, but we're playing hard. I think we're taking the right steps and playing hard and that's what matters."
In Wednesday's game against Acadiana, the Lady Cats started fast on a steal and layup by Young less than a minute in the game and continued building upon their lead under the final horn.
Young scored six points and Rothman five as Walker surged to a 12-5 early lead.
An assist from Young to Rothman started the second period, and Kaitlyn Hayes' 3-pointer ended the half, giving Walker a 27-14 lead.
If Acadiana had any hope of a comeback, they were ruined in the third period when Young scorched the Lady Rams for 11 of Walker's 19 points, giving the Lady Cats a 25-point lead at 46-21.
And it only got worse.
"We played well, but we have a lot of work to do," Jones said afterward, reminding her team of a scheduled Saturday practice.
"We gotta keep it going; we can't be happy with where we're at. We want to play through every possession, whether it's good, bad ... We want them to just play because you can't stop; not for themselves but for their team."