It won’t take long for Albany’s girls basketball team to find out where it stands in the District 7-3A race – even if it happened a bit by accident.
The league schedule was set, but playing dates were incorrect, which resulted in moving district play up a date.
“The easiest way to do it was take the last game on the schedule and make it the first district game, and that put us playing Loranger in the first district game,” said Albany coach Stacy Darouse, whose team opens league play at Loranger at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
A boys game will follow, which will be the district opener for both teams.
For those keeping track, Loranger picked up three wins over the Lady Hornets (14-7) last season, including a 65-49 win in the Class 3A semifinals last season. Loranger went on to defeat Madison Prep 42-38 in overtime to win the state title.
“It’s always difficult to go to Loranger and play up there in a hostile environment,” Darouse said. “So to go up there the first district game could be very good for us and get it out of the way. I feel like playing up there on a Tuesday night’s better than playing them at home on a Friday night. There are plusses to it, but they always get up to play us. It’s always a tough game, so it doesn’t matter to me really if it’s the first game, the last game, the game in the middle. We’re still looking at an uphill battle.”
The Lady Wolves return a core group of players from last season, including Mississippi State signee Jamya Young, while Albany is led by seniors Camryn Woods and Layla D’Fonseca.
Darouse gave the nod to Loranger as the district leader heading into league play while noting Sumner’s Tykayla Robertson is returning from a knee injury and its guards are also back.
“That’s going to be a matchup issue, and then it’s always tough to go play up at Bogalusa, and then you never know what you’re going to get with Hannan, so I really think after Loranger, it’s a toss-up,” Darouse said. “It’s just going to depend on if we can put good games together, back-to-back-to-back.”
The Lady Hornets have shown flashes of that, picking up three wins in their tournament in the final week of December.
“We were able to put a couple of good quarters together,” Darouse said. “I can’t say we’ve actually put a good game together yet, but the effort’s there, and I love the effort. If the effort’s there, then I can coach them and we can be competitive as long as the effort’s there.”
That has Darouse focused on the big picture as the Lady Hornets head into their district opener.
“I think it (last season’s results against Loranger), weighs on us a little bit. We would like to approach it as just a district game, but in reality, we know that’s not really the case,” Darouse said. “But from a coaching standpoint, we’re going to coach our kids the best we can and just let the chips fall where they may, hope that we can play as well as we can play and have a chance to play with them. The bottom line is they’re the defending state champions and it’s a great chance for us to go on the road and be in a hostile environment that’s going to prepare us possibly for a playoff game down the road.”
Hornets set to begin league play
On the boys side, the Hornets (11-9) have put last season behind them heading into district play.
The returns of seniors Damien McAlister, who missed last season with a knee injury, and Tyler Quamme, who missed the second half of last season with academic issues, have helped the Hornets.
“Having those guys here for the remainder of the season, I think speaks volumes to the younger guys,” Hornets coach Chris Carter said. “We could have gone 8-0 in district last year with those two guys. That’s about 25 points a game, them added together. If you add 25 points on top of a lot of our games in district, then we might have have came (out) on top of a few things.”
Hannan is the defending league champion, with Loranger, Sumner and Bogalusa also competing in the district.
“We’re all right there,” Carter said of the league race. “I think it’s kind of up for grabs as far as the four public schools are concerned, because I think only one of us are going to end up making the playoffs. I guess we’ll be lucky to get two in there.
“I think we’re like middle of the pack right now. I think that we could finish first or we can finish last. It just depends on how we play. I’m not really concerned about what anybody else does, except for how we approach every game, and if we come out and start the game strong and finish strong like I know we can do, I think that we could give a run at it (district championship).”
Carter said the Hornets won’t change their approach heading into district play.
“Coming to watch us isn’t the prettiest of games,” he said. “We definitely like to ugly things up, but that kind of works to our advantage – keeping it lower scoring and kind of keeping it close to the very end. That’s kind of our motto, because we’re not going to win many shootouts, so we’ve got to scrap and hustle and keep it close and have a chance to win at the end.”
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