Ladycats look to build on success in second year under Powell

Koi Ursin of Destrehan

Twalla Powell paused while considering her Destrehan Wildcats’ first eight games of the season on the basketball court.

“We’re off to a challenging start,” Powell mused.

That’s not to say the Wildcats have struggled mightily or close to it: Destrehan is 4-4 thus far against a tough slate of foes that include Vandebilt Catholic, Karr and Walker. The team could just as easily be off to a 6-2 start if not for a bounce or two the other way – two of its four losses have been by a single point, a 59-58 loss to Karr and 61-60 against Denham Springs.

The tough schedule is by design. Powell wanted to test her team early and often after a breakthrough season in her first year with the program: one that saw Destrehan go 23-8, earning the No. 13 seed in Division I non-select and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

That team was very young and the team’s core is back to try and build on last year’s success. The sophomore-heavy squad is learning as it goes.

“Last year was about building confidence,” Powell said. “This year, we have to test ourselves a bit more and I made the schedule a little bit harder to get us ready for district and that playoff push. We started with some heavy hitters. It’s all going to help us in the end … we’re learning how to handle those pressure situations.

“It’s all about learning. I tell them constantly not to worry about the other team. We’re playing against the game. Let’s perfect our game and keep perfecting it.”

Thus far, the team has had to lean on a short rotation of players with two key players injured in center Trinity Bailey and guard Shayla Gordon, both juniors.

Koi Ursin is back after a strong sophomore season and is the Wildcats’ floor general at point guard.

“Koi’s been phenomenal,” said Powell. “She’s playing at a very high level. Her shooting and her basketball IQ has been really prevalent this season.”

Versatile sophomore A’maya Armstrong is back as well, a player who can contribute in the frontcourt and backcourt alike.

“She’s seeing more time this year and that’s helping us with rebounding and pushing the ball in transition,” said Powell.

Grace Morris and Honesty Miller – “our twin towers,” Powell said – have been positives after earning key roles in the rotation. Sophomore Harmony Howard is another contributor who’s game is growing this season.

And sophomore Ka’mi Johnson brings defensive toughness that earned high praise from her coach.

“She is an awesome defender – awesome,” Powell said. “She makes a big difference … she’s a catalyst on the floor.”

The team’s overall defense is coming together, but Powell said it will take some time to get to where the Wildcats want to be. With her players a year more experienced in her system, Powell’s been able to expand some of the things the team’s been doing at that end of the court.

“It’s just a matter of more reps,” Powell said. “We’re learning as we go.”

Destrehan has three games before the start of District 7-5A play, beginning with Salmen at DHS on Friday night. Monday and Wednesday clashes with Ponchatoula  (away)and Donaldsonville (home) will follow.


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