Destrehan brings a mix of experienced veterans and exciting newcomers to the basketball court in Jennifer Miller’s second year as the program’s head basketball coach, and the Ladycats have gotten off to a 2-3 start to the season.
The 2021-22 team is a versatile group, with returning starters Aaliyah Wells and Breion Richard each converting from guard to forward. Wells and Richard, junior and senior respectively, each stand at approximately 5’9, but have honed their skills as guards prior to this season. The hope is to take advantage of their height by getting them the ball closer to the basket – and perhaps along the way attack some of the natural mismatches their skills could force over the course of the season.
Wells, for example, was the team’s point guard last season, so the prospect of a traditional forward or center matching up with her would present several issues for a defense. “That’s honestly what we hope for,” Miller said. “We’d love for a team to make that mistake and play her with a post player.”
For now, the offense remains a work in progress, but one Miller believes will start to see rapid improvement in the coming weeks. The Wildcats were a bit nomadic in their preparation for the season, as their home gym underwent repairs following Hurricane Ida. But just after Thanksgiving, they were able to get back into their home gym, and that’s allowed for a more structured routine. “The girls have gone through a lot,” Miller said. “As far as practicing at different gyms and different times … they really responded so well. There were times we weren’t sure where or if we’d be practicing the next day until the night before. But the girls got themselves to practice, their parents got them to practice.
“I can’t thank the coaches at Cammon and Hurst enough for putting up with us. Sacred Heart in Norco, too … we’ve been all over. We’re so appreciative of everyone who opened their doors to us. We’re finally back on our home court and feeling good about the way things are.” Junior Amiree Henderson and senior Savana LeSassier are returning players from last year’s rotation. Two new starters, meanwhile, have made an impact in freshman Koi Ursin and sophomore Chelsea Dangerfield.
One of Destrehan’s two wins so far came against an East Jefferson team that felled the Wildcats in a matchup last season, something Miller said shows the progress her players have made. The team’s three losses came in close games, meanwhile, against teams that beat Destrehan handily a season ago. “It’s nice to bridge that gap, so to speak,” Miller said. “You’d like to get over the hump and put some wins up, of course. But as the season progresses, I only see us getting better.
This group works so hard and is learning quick.” Against East Jefferson, Ursin scored 20 and Richard scored 14 to lead Destrehan. Amber Harp added 11. In Destrehan’s 54-50 loss to Donaldsonville, Richard led the way with 15 points. Ursin scored 14 and Dangerfield added nine. Miller said that as the team refines its offense, it will lean on its defense to generate some extra scoring opportunities in transition. “I would say defense is our strength right now,” she said.
“We’re still trying to find our rhythm offensively. I think being back in our gym and getting up more shots now will help us toward that.”