In 2020 and 2021, the Hahnville Lady Tigers reestablished themselves as a force to be feared on the basketball court, winning district championships and making back-to-back runs to the 5A quarterfinals.
Kourtney Irons was a key piece of that core group, and the sharpshooting senior-to-be is the last remaining with the Tigers, who have taken to the summer court this year with a focus on preparing a very young group around Irons for the upcoming season and those beyond it.
Hahnville played in two leagues this summer, the varsity facing tough competition hosted at Warren Easton, while the Tigers hosted a junior varsity-focused league in Boutte.
“Our varsity is really small this year and we have to develop our younger kids,” said Hahnville head coach Arrianna Smith. “To teach them the fundamentals of playing at the varsity level. That’s where the junior varsity-focused league came in. We got to play Mondays and Wednesdays, brought in some of our juniors with things to work on and let them work with the younger kids we have. And I think that helped a lot. They took ownership.”
The JV-focused league saw Destrehan, East St. John, Karr and Riverside among those participating.
At Warren Easton, the focus was more on getting reps for the expected core group of the 2022-23 Tigers. Irons will be the team’s lone senior, so every bit of experience accumulated this summer was vital for the Tigers.
“Along with Kourtney, we have three or four juniors, three sophomores and a freshman … we’re going to be pretty young,” Smith said. “(Irons), we know what she can do, she’s experienced, so we did focus more on getting our juniors some experience against the older kids from other schools. But she played hard the entire time and she really came out strong. She brought energy each game.”
Sophomores-to-be Dihlynn Mitchell and Ryli Martin brought strong defensive play with developing offensive games, Smith said. Georgia Alford, who will be a junior, flashed her shooting range. Alaejah Jupiter, a forward/center entering her sophomore year, also played well.
The team proved it gained ground over the summer schedule as well. A loss to Dominican in the midst of the schedule came with a poor performance by the Tigers, but the squad bounced back to end the season with a win over that same Dominican team. Other notable performances came in matchups where the young Tigers pushed strong teams like Karr, Ellender and Warren Easton, the latter of those a loss at the buzzer.
“You saw the energy we had in those three games, and if you can just turn it up a bit more from there, we have a chance to be really good,” Smith said.
To be really good, this Tigers team will have to bring it at the defensive end. That’s been the calling card of Smith’s Hahnville teams during her tenure. But because of this group’s lack of height, these Tigers may have to speed up the pace even more.
“Defense will be our key, then we need to push the ball for offense,” Smith said. “We’re very small, so we’ll need to play aggressive defense and cover the floor each game.”