Hahnville will host a playoff game for the first time since the 2009-10 season as the 15th seeded Tigers host 18th seeded West Monroe in the opening round of the 5A playoffs Friday night at 6 p.m.
The Tigers (21-10) finished tied for second in an extremely competitive District 7-5A that saw four teams earn top 15 seedings in the 5A bracket. H.L. Bourgeois (6), Thibodaux (10) and Central Lafourche (12) join Hahnville in that mix, while Jasmine’s former team and 7-5A competitor East St. John also earned a spot at No. 22.
Hahnville returns to the playoffs after an absence of two seasons. It will be attempting to win its first playoff game since the 2008-09 season, when the Tigers made a run to the Class 5A championship game.
“I definitely feel like we’re ready for the challenge,” said Hahnville coach Yussef Jasmine. “Defensively, I think we’re getting back to where we were when we were really playing well. We’re paying attention to detail and putting forth the effort, because there was a spell where we kind of slid back into old habits. We saw how that cost us and we’ve addressed it.”
As might come as no surprise to those who follow its football program traditionally, West Monroe’s players bring size and physicality to the table on the basketball court as well. The Rebels (20-15) are another team that has been tested against top competition. Natchitoches Central and Ouachita Parish, the respective 1 and 2 seeds in 5A, both hail from West Monroe’s district.
“They’re very big and they switch up defenses a lot,” Jasmine said. “Obviously, you can look at the bracket and see the talent is there in that district. (West Monroe) has a bunch of athletic guys who like to get to the goal, get to the rim.”
In Jasmine’s first year with Hahnville as head coach, he’s led the Tigers back to the postseason. After leading East St. John through numerous postseason battles in the last decade, he is no stranger to the intensity of postseason play. He also knows his players lack that same experience level, something he’s trying to address by tweaking things in practice this week.
“The tempo, the pressure, we’re taking that up a level,” Jasmine said. “My aim is to get them as prepared as possible for what’s coming. Human nature, of course, is a factor and they’re dealing with something new. So I’ll have to monitor that. But we’re preparing for it.”
Playing in a district full of playoff qualifiers adds up as a plus in the experience column, though. Aside from the high level of competition, Jasmine said the teams in 7-5A play with such different styles and have different strengths, so the teams further prepare one another to make a potential playoff run.
“H.L. has one of the best players in the state, a great individual talent,” Jasmine said. “Thibodaux is one of the most balanced teams you’ll see and their guards have great size. Central Lafourche plays really, really hard every night. They’re all special in their own way.”
As game night approaches, Jasmine said the excitement level at Hahnville is climbing.
“But as a coach, I’m trying to stay away from the excitement,” he noted. “It’s my job to put us in the best position to win.”