Haughton, Benton face road trials as playoffs begin

When the 2014 LHSAA girls state playoffs tip off today and Friday, Haughton and Benton will be among several local teams facing stiff road tests.

The Lady Bucs (24-8) will make their longest road trip of the season on Friday, when they take on Destrehan (26-1) on the Wildcats’ home floor.

“The keys for us will be how well we handle the travel and how well we handle the nerves,” Haughton coach Jennifer Pesnell said. “We understand they are a very guard-oriented team, so we will have to protect the ball. I believe when we play the way we are capable, we can compete with a lot of people.”

Benton (20-11) will be a bit closer to home, traveling to Monroe to play West Ouachita (21-10), a team that defeated the Lady Tigers 51-38 in early December in the St. Michael Tournament.

“There is a comfort level, having already played them, and the girls feel we have improved since then,” Benton coach Mary Ward said. “In tournament play, teams seeded 12 to 22 can beat anyone on a given night. We were ranked higher than Huntington, but they beat us.”

Today’s opening round will feature three local games with 5A Southwood (23-6) hosting Carencro (14-13), 3A Green Oaks (22-5) hosting Parkview Baptist (16-11) and 2A North Caddo (29-1) entertaining Oak Hill (9-18). In 4A, Fair Park (19-9) and Woodlawn (12-10) will play on Friday night in the Lady Indians’ den.

Other road games involving local teams include Airline (17-13) at Ponchatoula (23-5), Huntington (14-10) at St. Michael (20-12), Loyola (19-11) at Peabody (20-9), Evangel (14-15) at Notre Dame (24-4) and Plain Dealing (17-12) at Ascension Catholic (14-13).

Area 5A to 1A games have Lafayette (17-12) at Natchitoches Central (24-6), Ruston (13-15) at West Monroe (26-6), St. Louis (15-15) at Mansfield (25-6), French Settlement (15-9) at Red River (16-12), Northeast (18-12) at Lakeview (18-11), St. Edmund (7-18) at Arcadia (24-5), Cedar Creek (13-17) at Vermilion Catholic (25-4), St. Frederick (15-12) at St. Mary’s (19-6) and Logansport (10-13) at Central Catholic (24-3)

In Class B, Quitman (9-21) is at Florien (30-8), Negreet (13-22) at Converse (18-14), Zwolle (5-27) at Castor (28-6), Grace Christian (11-19) at Saline (18-11), Hathaway (8-20) at Doyline (17-12) and Centerville (6-13) at Stanley (38-0).

Haughton’s success will be determined by a number of factors, including the inside play of Mattie McCoy, Brittany Robinett and Chelcy Swint. For the first time in a long time, the Lady Bucs have been able to out-size some people, and the same should be the case on Friday.

“That’s kinda unusual for us, but we hope to shock the world,” Pesnell proclaimed tongue-in-cheek. “Do I think Destrehan is unbeatable? No. But we will have to play well.”

The ability to move on could come down to guards Mikayla Barber and Ebone Green’s ability to handle Destrehan’s pressure. And Bethany Knotts’ play off the bench could be critical.

“Bethany will certainly be key for us – we may need her more than most games because of their guards,” Pesnell said. “Our guards will have to cut their turnovers.”

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