Quarterfinalist season reflects rise of Hahnville Lady Tigers program

Hahnville's Niara Simmons drives to the basket during the Lady Tigers' first round matchup against West Ouachita.

Though Arrianna Smith guided Hahnville to its best season in more than a decade, this week the Hahnville head coach was still shaking off the effects of her Lady Tigers’ season ending quarterfinal loss at Benton – it’s just the competitor in her, one that dates back to her playing days at Hahnville and Nicholls State.

“I don’t think it’s something you just move on from,” Smith said of the 75-46 quarterfinal loss. “I feel like I’m just kind of waking up from it to be honest … I’m still thinking about it, what we could have done better, what I could have done better. In the back of my mind, all those scenarios of how we could have prepared differently or better, and showed up to play like I know we can.”

Benton (27-5) took control from the start of the quarterfinal matchup. Benton led 16-7 after the first quarter and took a 19-point lead into halftime, 37-18.

Qua Chambers led No. 2 seeded Benton (27-5) with 27 points, while Jada Anderson added 19. For Hahnville (27-5), the No. 7 seed, Kori Joseph scored 12 to lead the way.

“You can blame travel, or preparation, or make any excuse you want, but at the end of the day it’s the quarterfinals and Benton was ready to go,” Smith said. “They were lights out. Even players who didn’t score much on film, they shot it lights out. Kudos to Benton, they played a great game.”

For Benton, it was one of what has become four consecutive dominating playoff wins, each of them by margins of 24 points or more. Its quarterfinal win snapped a 15-game win streak for Hahnville and was Benton’s 12th victory in a row. Benton went on to advance to the Class 5A championship game with a 63-39 win over Natchitoches Central.

But while it wasn’t the ending to the season Smith or her players envisioned, it couldn’t wipe away the tremendous strides the Lady Tigers made in what was a landmark year for the program. Smith’s Tigers gradually improved from her first season to this, her fourth, landing a shared district championship last season before winning it outright in 2019-20.

25 years after Smith graduated from Hahnville, the Tigers reached their first state quarterfinal since 2008, and this season saw the team earn its first playoff wins at all since 2012. Both of those wins, over West Ouachita and Denham Springs, came in dominating fashion.

Behind its trademark press defense and a deadly transition offense, Hahnville was dominant more often than not this season — after the growing pains of Smith’s first season with the team, in which the Tigers posted a losing mark, the team has improved its win total each season.

Four seniors have been alongside Smith for the duration of that journey: Danae Lorio, Yelah Moses, Paceley Williams and LeJonne Blackmon.

Smith said she hurt for those players the most after the loss. She also said their contributions to the evolution of the Tigers program won’t be forgotten.

“They’re given this program growth and given perspective to our younger girls coming up,” Smith said. “It’s like you’re going through a tunnel, then you start seeing the light at the end … our seniors started seeing that light, I think, and the possibilities for our team. That persistence from their freshman year to now, they went out and made it happen.”

 

About Ryan Arena 1987 Articles
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