Whenever she needed a clutch basket or performance, Natchitoches Central coach Nikki Jones knew who to call on.
Lady Chiefs senior guard Princess Cohen was the unquestioned leader for a young team that found its way to the LHSAA Class 5A quarterfinals after an 8-7 start to the season.
Down 44-43 in the second game of the season against Class 3A runner-up Mansfield, Cohen’s go-ahead basket would give the team a 47-44 win as it would be the first of many clutch moments this season for Cohen.
“We need her to step up in big situations like that this year,” Jones said after that game.
That she did.
While team struggled early with just two seniors — Cohen and LaKayla Petite — fortunes for the young squad in the last game of the 2014 calendar year.
Trailing 36-27 to then No. 1 ranked Walker through three quarters Dec. 29, the Lady Chiefs outscored Walker 19-6 in the fourth quarter take a 46-42 win. Cohen helped her team come away with the season-changing win by scoring 20 points and grabbing five rebounds.
As the season progressed, Cohen’s game blossomed as she scored in double-figures in 18 of NCHS’ final 19 games en route to receiving All-District and All-State honors.
With the hot stretch, the Lady Chiefs closed the regular season at a 14-2 clip, earning second place in the always brutal District 2-5A and a No. 7 seed in the Class 5A playoffs.
It was there where Cohen saved her best for last — averaging 26.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.3 steals during the postseason – as the Lady Chiefs bowed out to Walker in a rematch for the right to go to the Top 28 Feb. 26.
Nevertheless, Cohen would end the season averaging 17 points and five rebounds, while making over half of her shots.
While she performed well, she is not the only one in her family that is dominant on the hardwood.
Her brother, Danny, is a dynamic scorer for the NCHS boys team that fell just short of a repeat of the LHSAA Class 5A championship after being atop the rankings for most of the season.
Danny recently committed to New Orleans, while Princess has yet to decide where she will play at the next level.
Wherever she does decide to go, it will get a clutch performer.
2014: Sami Thomas, Pickering
2013: Victoria Rachal, NCHS
2012: Natosha Morvant, Fairview
2011: Christina Gray, Winnfield
2010: Brandy Broome, NCHS
2009: Kylie Leonards, Fairview
2008: Demetria White, Calvin
2007: Demetria White, Calvin
2006: Tarkeisha Wysinger, Many
2005: Courtnee Hollins, Fairview
2004: Kayla Clark, Rapides
2003: Kayla Clark, Rapides
Danyale Bayonne, 5-7, Jr., Pineville – The only returner from last year’s All-Cenla first team, Bayonne averaged 14 points and six rebounds to help lead the Lady Rebels to the second round of the playoffs.
Princess Cohen, 5-8, Sr., NCHS – Averaged 17 points and five rebounds per game to lead the Lady Chiefs to the Class 5A quarterfinals
Krystal Freeman, 6-2, So., Pineville – The 6-foot-2 anchor in the middle led the Lady Rebels in scoring (15 points) and rebounding (7.5 rpg).
Callie Maddox, 5-10, So., Fairview – Maddox led the Lady Panthers back to the Top 28 for the 15th straight season, averaging 27 points and seven rebounds on the year.
Jada Swafford, 5-7, Jr., University – Swafford led the Lady Lions to the MAIS Class A championship, averaging a team-high 15.3 points with 6.2 rebounds, 3.9 steals and 3.4 assists.
Mallory Crawford, 5-11, Sr., Grant – Despite battling a nagging shoulder injury that prematurely ended her season, Crawford averaged 19.2 points, 14.3 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game.
KeShyra Culbert, 5-5, Jr., Leesville – Culbert’s all-around game paced the Lady Wampus Cats as she compiled 15.4 points, 4.6 steals and 4.1 assists per game.
Maddisen Martin, 5-6, Fr., Fairview – Martin effectively transitioned to point guard, averaging nine assists per game and also finished second on the team in scoring with 18 points per game.
Jaeden Vaifanua, 5-11, 8th, Rapides – Vaifanua burst onto the Cenla scene, amassing double-doubles in 27 of the Lady Mustangs’ 29 games, and leading the team with 21.3 points and 15.3 points per game.
Hazel Young, 5-3, So., Marksville – The diminutive point guard led the Lady Tigers to the Class 3A quarterfinals, averaging 20.3 points, five steals and three assists per game.
Shelby Bishop, Sr., St. Mary’s; Courtney Branch, Sr., University; Sarah Branton, Jr., Menard; Kierra Brimzy, So., NCHS; Asia Dorsey, Sr., Peabody; Mazie DuBois, Jr., St. Mary’s; Whitney Goins, So., Anacoco; Brittany Freeman, Sr., Grant; Maddisen Martin, Fr., Fairview; Amy McKellar, Sr., Pickering; Ashley McKellar, Sr., Pickering; RyDeja McQuarn, Sr., Pineville; Lauren Rasmussen, So., Plainview; Linda Rogers, Sr., Leesville; Ashley Sheppard, Sr., Pickering; Alexis Stalsby, Jr., ASH; ReJayla Williams, Fr., University; Darielle “Goosie” Chark, Sr., ASH; Allie Davis, Sr., University; Maddie Smith, So., Menard; Morgan Woodard, So., Menard.