MAUREPAS – There’s a bigger picture outside of Thursday’s 48-22 victory in the Livingston Parish Tournament that first-year Denham Springs girls coach Blake Zito wants his team to see.
Sure, advancing past eight-seeded Springfield was an objective, and earning a semifinal date at 6 p.m. Friday against fifth-seeded Albany, but Lady Jackets senior forward Desiree Jones realized Zito’s preaching a broader message.
“What we did was OK,” Jones said, “but coach expects better from us because we’re going to be playing harder teams.”
Denham Springs finished play in last week’s St. Michael/Lady Warrior Tournament with a 2-3 record and two days later dropped a 12-point decision to Ponchatoula.
“I’m disappointed that we’re still not doing what I ask,” he said. “We went through a tough stretch of games with John Curtis, Benton and Ponchatoula. We played right with them, but we didn’t shoot the ball well. We made some silly mistakes and we’re not still not executing what I want to do.
“I told them I can be patient, I know it’s my first year,” he said. “At the end of the day they’ve got to start doing what I ask. We’re not going to achieve what we think we can if we don’t start doing the right things.”
Zito took issue with the 28 turnovers committed by his team with 13 of those taking place in the first half.
Top-seeded Denham Springs (7-3) still managed to overcome that and lead 25-6 at halftime, making Jones and Kate Thompson the focal point of the offense on the interior, along with forcing Springfield (8-2) into 20 of its 27 turnovers in the opening half.
Jones scored six of her 10 points in the opening quarter, including an assist from Thompson, and the Lady Jackets scored the first eight points of the game – a stretch capped by a corner jump from Maddie Howell.
“That’s our money maker,” Zito said of his team’s inside game which is without an injured Jala Robinson. “Against Benton we settled for a lot of threes (6 of 29). We can shoot the ball. We’ve got too good of an inside game, people that can put the ball on the floor and go make somethings happen, to just settle for shots.”
Springfield had difficulty shooting, making 3 of 17 shots in the first half and 4 of 26 midway through the second quarter.
“We knew we were outmatched before the game,” Springfield coach Billy Dreher said. “It was all about trying to get better and do the little things. It’s good for us. They’re well coached and have some good players. They gave us some stuff to look at what we need to work on.”
Denham Springs built a 20-point lead (31-11) less than two minutes into the third quarter on a hustle play from Southeastern Louisiana guard signee Alexius Horne.
Horne knocked the ball away in the front court, chased it down in the backcourt, took it away from a defender while diving on the floor and feeding Jones down the court for a lay-in.
Thompson, who led the Lady Jackets with 12 points, followed with an inside move and Horne added a second-chance field goal that made it 33-13 with 3:27 showing in the third quarter.
Springfield, which shot 22 percent (9 of 41) ended the quarter with consecutive baskets, the last on a layup from Jamiracle Joseph.
Joseph and Lori Martin led the Lady Bulldogs with five points apiece.
“There’s no need to get your head down over this one,” Dreher said. “We’re off to a good start and have a tough stretch of games coming up. We’re just trying to get better. It’s always humbling there’s someone to let you know you’ve got to work, you’ve got to get better.”
Denham Springs stretched out its lead (41-17) on back-to-back baskets from Jones at the 6-minute mark of the fourth quarter. The Lady Jackets made 7 of their 10 shots in the quarter and enjoyed their largest lead (26 points) on a putback from Carly Cruise and a steal and layup from Violett Jackson.
“I need some robots out there,” Zito said. “Right now, I’ve got people not doing what I’m asking. At the end of the day what I’m asking may not work, but I need to find out first before I can change something.”