Ladycats battle Ouachita Thursday for trip to state semis

There’s a trip to the Class 5A semifinals on the line Thursday (Feb. 23) as third-seeded Destrehan hosts No. 6 Ouachita Parish in quarterfinal action, with tipoff slated for 6 p.m.The winner between the two teams advances to the LHSAA Marsh Madness state basketball tournament in Hammond, where the postseason semifinals and finals will be contested next week. Destrehan is attempting to earn its third trip to the tournament in the past four years.

Tonight’s game is a rematch of a round two matchup between the Wildcats (32-0) and Lions (30-4), one Destrehan came away from as 67-55 victors.

“I know from the past, it’s going to be a very physical game,” Destrehan coach Angi Butler said. “They’re very tall. They’ve got four girls 6’ or taller and they’re very athletic. They’re gonna come at us. We knocked them out last season, so from their standpoint, how much greater would it be for them to knock us out this year in round three? We have to understand that and keep the right mindset.”

The quarterfinal round has been a memorable — and nerve wracking — one for these Wildcats in recent history. Last season, Destrehan lost at Natchitoches Central, 77-67. Two years ago, Destrehan turned back visiting Mount Carmel in overtime, 90-87. In 2014, it was the Wildcats winning at the buzzer at home against Walker, 57-55.

“That quarterfinal game, in a way, is the toughest of all five, you’ve got two close teams fighting … you’re going to the final four or you’re staying home,” Butler said. “Where we’ve been fortunate, we’ve played two of those previous three quarterfinals at home, and we won those home games. So again this time, we hope to bring a big enough crowd to keep our minds right and give us that motivation to do well.”

Destrehan advanced to the quarterfinals after besting Airline last week in round one, 79-29 at home, then going on the road Monday to topple New Iberia, 75-48. Ouachita Parish hosted and defeated Central-Baton Rouge, 68-32, and Zachary, 58-43.

Butler said this matchup will be about her team’s speed and quickness vs. Ouachita’s size. Rebounding, she said, will be especially critical. Destrehan employs a guard-heavy lineup, making tonight’s game a true contrast in styles.

“My bigs aren’t true bigs,” Butler said. “There’s a benefit and downfall to that … we’re quicker than they are, but don’t have the size. We have to make sure we get in position to rebound the ball in order to transition and use the speed I know we have and turn that into points.”

One could also expect a heavy dose of Destrehan’s signature defensive press. That’s something that helped key Destrehan’s round two win over New Iberia, another team reliant on its size.

“We’re gonna try to put pressure on them. With bigs, there’s not as much ball-handling,” Butler said. “Against New Iberia, we knew they had some bigs. They had two girls who were their main focus .We knew if we could get them in foul trouble, put pressure on them, they would make those turnovers.”

In the New Iberia win, Cara Ursin tallied a triple-double, scoring 30 points to go with 18 rebounds and 11 assists. She also notched six steals. Jerlicia Morris scored 16 points and Korianna Reynaud scored 12 points to go with six steals.

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