Central girls coach Terri Morris.jpg

Central High head coach Terri Morris instructs her players during a time out in the first half of Denham Springs High's district victory over Central High Wednesday night in Central.

Central's Madison Branch tries to get past DSHS' Jala Robinson.jpg

Central’s Madison Branch (12) drives to the basket as Denham Springs High’s Jala Robinson (24) defends in the first half against Denham Springs.

CENTRAL – Denham Springs forward Jala Robinson acknowledges being a multi-tasker on the court when it comes to trying to fulfill her job description.

Defense, posting up on the low block and rebounding define part of that role, but Robinson displayed in her team’s District 4-5A opening game she’s plenty capable of scoring as well.

Robinson scored seven of her game-high 11 points in the first quarter to help Denham Springs successfully get out of the blocks and run away to a 52-31 victory Wednesday over Central.

“I feel like I’m in my rhythm,” said Robinson, who said she’s 100 percent recovered from a slight foot fracture a month ago. “My role is to play defense, set up on the block and shoot. I’m capable of scoring.”

Denham Springs’ first-year coach Blake Zito didn’t minimize the importance of what a healthy Robinson brings to the Lady Jackets (19-3), who extended their win streak to 14 games.

Central vs. DSHS Morgan Rabalais

Central’s Morgan Rabalais (23) hits an outside shot in the first half Wednesday's game against Denham Springs.

“It’s huge,” Zito said of the scoring punch Robinson adds to the team. “She got hurt and that’s when we lost our three games. When she got back, she still wasn’t quite the same. She was struggling a bit to finish sometimes. This was probably the best she’s finished since the injury. When she’s finishing inside, we really become special.”

Robinson was more concerned with how Denham Springs started the game, a characteristic Zito said that’s been missing in recent victories over University High and in Tuesday’s 53-35 road win over Assumption.

The Lady Jackets applied full-court pressure against the Lady Wildcats (6-13), trapping once they crossed midcourt and changed defenses from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone in the first half.

The result?

Central turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter and was limited to just 2-of-10 shooting. They were 3-of-20 in the first half and 11-of-40 (28 percent) overall.

“We probably played with the most energy we had from the start,” Zito said. “We stressed to start fresh. If we start like that, that kind of changes things. It kind of demoralizes them a bit and then we just keep coming. That was the plan, to press and every rebound we get, we’re running.”

Robinson typified a balanced scoring effort for the Lady Jackets. Reserve guard Treneisha Muse had 10 points, Desiree Jones 9 while Katherine Thompson and Alexius Horne each added eight.

Robinson was part of the early onslaught, scoring on a driving layup, a layup off a steal in the front court, a free throw and another layin that came off an assist from Horne.

The Lady Jackets established their first double-digit lead at the 2:40 mark on Thompson’s 3-pointer followed by a 3-pointer from Horne and a put back from Jones for a 20-2 advantage.

Madison Branch, who led Central with 10 points, stopped the Lady Wildcats’ scoring drought with a baseline jumper with 32 seconds showing, ending a stretch of seven straight missed shots over more than 6 ½ minutes.

Central's Madison Madison inside vs. Katherine Thompson.jpg

Central’s Madison Branch (12) takes a shot as Denham Springs' Katherine Thompson (32) defends.

“Coach got on us that we had to pick up the pace and pick up the energy,” Robinson said. “We had to come out ready to play. This was our first district game, so we had to come out and show them what we have planned for the other teams. I thought we did and executed very well.”

Central coach Terri Morris said a change in her starting lineup because of a violation of a team rule put the Lady Wildcats at an early disadvantage.

“We had to switch up how we play a bit,” Morris said. “We normally have both of our bigs (Lani Morris and Kayla Williams) in. Unfortunately, she (Williams) had to sit the first half and put us in a situation offensively. She gives a lot there and the two of them together, they’re able to play off each other.”

Denham closed out the second quarter on a 14-0 run for a 34-9 halftime lead.

Jones, who scored all of her points in the second quarter, scored a layup off a steal and later fed Thompson for an inside basket.

Horne followed with her second 3-pointer with Jones adding a free throw and Muse a put back over the last four minutes of the first half.

“It’s a learning experience,” Morris said. “All I wanted is for them to do was play hard. We put ourselves in a situation early that was hard to come back from. Having to switch somethings that we normally do, it was unfortunate.”

After shooting 40 percent (13 of 32) in the opening half, there wasn’t any let up for Denham Springs. The Lady Jackets went on to lead by as many as 31 points (46-15) with 16 seconds left in the third quarter on Muse’s jumper in the lane.

“We had the mindset that we couldn’t cruise,” Robinson said. “We look at it that we’ve got to keep going. We don’t look if we’re up or down, we just keep playing."

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