It took Hahnville a little while to settle in for its Class 5A first round playoff game with visiting Airline, which trailed the Lady Tigers 16-15 early in the second quarter.
But just like that, the Tigers were off and running – away with the game, in fact – in the blink of an eye. Hahnville scored the next 20 points of the game and led by as many as 32 points en route to a 76-50 victory in Boutte Sunday.
Hahnville (16-3) the No. 8 seed, will host 9th seeded Ruston in round two. The game is set for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in Boutte. Ruston defeated Sulphur Sunday, 49-42.
Kori Joseph’s 16 points led a balanced effort for Hahnville. Ah’Jaha Kenner and Kamryn Bartholomew each scored 12, Kourtney Irons 11 and Genesis Lee and Niara Simmons each had eight.
For 25th seeded Airline (13-14), center Kori Rice led the way with 21 points and Toria Brocks added 16.
After nearly two weeks idle prior to the start of the playoffs for Hahnville, the District 7-5A champion Tigers were more than ready to take the court – and it showed. The Tigers have not lost a game since Dec. 21, and would not do so Sunday.
“The more time we had, the more excited we were for it,” said Bartholomew. “It gave us more time to prepare, and we needed that. We came out and did what we were supposed to do.”
Some nerves may have been a factor early on.
“We had to settle down,” said Hahnville coach Arrianna Smith. “We hadn’t played in almost two weeks … it was a matter of settling back into our game. After the first quarter, I think we were able to do that and keep it going.”
Rice was also a major factor in the opening stages. She scored 10 of Airline’s 14 first quarter points and presented a bit of a mismatch inside for the smaller Tigers.
But Hahnville regrouped, sending help when necessary and at times stopping Airline’s interior scoring via the most simple route – ensuring the ball never reached the lane to begin with, via a strong pressure defense. Hahnville outscored Airline 27-3 in the second quarter, led 40-17 at halftime and never looked back.
The Tigers created offense from defense, getting out into transitions and converting off turnovers. HHS also attacked the basket relentlessly, drawing several three-point play opportunities and more often than not converting during their surge.
“We kept our head in the game. Big or small, we’re going to play our defense,” Bartholomew said. “So when they have a big girl, if someone needs help, we double. .. we’ll do whatever we have to to make it work.”
It was a pair of Irons free throws that got Hahnville going. Joseph canned a 3-pointer to make it 21-15, then she added three more on a bucket and foul. Irons converted a three-point play of her own after finishing with contact, then Kenner scored in transition. Bartholomew added a pair of baskets, while a Simmons’ 3-pointer just about put a bow on a nearly perfect second quarter performance.
“I knew they were ready to play,” Smith said. “But as a coach, with the two weeks off, you just try to remind them that this is their time to move forward. We’ve gone further and further … let’s take another step now.”
Joseph said that’s the plan for a group that began playing together as underclassmen and have since powered the program’s resurgence as a 5A factor.
“We’ve played together our whole loves … we’ve developed our skills together,” said Joseph, a senior. “It’s our time to put it together and do something with it. We’ve got to make it happen.”