Hoops season is among us, as the calendar sets to turn to December.
Each Monday throughout the season, we will rank the top girls basketball teams in Central Louisiana. On Tuesday, we will do the same for the boys.
Hopefully, this will spark great debate much like the football rankings.
So, without further ado…
1. Natchitoches Central (3-1): The Lady Chiefs opened up the season with three wins against Top 28 teams — Pickering, Ponchatoula and University Lab — before falling to a good Fair Park team in the City of Lights Tournament during the Thanksgiving break. NCHS lost reigning All-Cenla MVP Princess Cohen to graduation, but is still deep with talent such as sophomore Jolie Williams and senior Kierra Brimzy. Also, the return of Mariah Jones will help the Lady Chiefs that much more. THIS WEEK: at Leesville (Tues.), vs. Red River (Thurs.).
2. ASH (6-1): While their first five wins were good, the Trojan girls picked up a huge quality win at the City of Lights Tournament against Loyola, winning 38-36 in overtime. ASH’s only loss came to a 6-1 Northside team and it faces a Sam Houston squad that made the Class 5A quarterfinals. THIS WEEK: vs. Sam Houston (Tues.).
3. Rapides (4-0): The Mustangs narrowly miss out on the No. 2 spot, but will be a good team throughout the season despite youth and their roster size. However, Rapides has a powerful weapon inside in 6-foot-1 Jaeden Vaifanua. Against Jena Nov. 21, she recorded a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while adding in five blocks. THIS WEEK: vs. Avoyelles Charter (Mon.), Glenmora tournament (Dec. 2-4).
4. Fairview (9-1): The Panthers might be in Class B, but they have beaten every Class B or C school they have faced by double-digit, while notching a quality win against Pineville in the St. Thomas More tournament this past week. Fairview’s only defeat came against Class 4A’s Rayne, but the school has a solid 1-2 punch in junior Callie Maddox and sophomore Maddisen Martin. THIS WEEK: vs. Starks (Tue.).
5. Pineville (0-3): The Lady Rebels are way better than their 0-3 record indicates as they faced three teams who can make the Top 28 in Mansfield, St. Michael the Archangel and Fairview. I will give Pineville the benefit of doubt here as I believe those losses will help prepare it down the road and for life in the rugged District 2-5A. THIS WEEK: at Peabody (Tues.), at Byrd (Fri.).
6. University (7-1): Comparing apples to oranges can be really tough, but the Lady Lions deserve to be on this list. UA has not had a championship hangover this season as senior small forward and New Orleans signee Jada Swafford leads the team with 16.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.8 steals per game. THIS WEEK: at East Rankin (Tues.), vs. Adams County (Sat.)
7. Lakeview (4-2): The Lady Gators are still riding the waves of their Cinderella run to the Top 28 last year, with a 4-2 start and a 2-1 mark at the City of Lights Tournament. Their two losses were not bad losses as Ville Platte and Saline are good programs, with the former also reaching the Top 28 a year ago. The Lady Gators have dynamic All-State score Ny’Keria Jones healthy after she scored 19 points against parish rival St. Mary’s. THIS WEEK: vs. Evangel (Tues.)
8. St. Mary’s (4-2): Speaking of the Lady Tigers, they have scheduled up and performed well against the bigger teams this season, with three of their four wins coming against Class 4A or 5A schools. St. Mary’s coach Johnny Cox has a deep bench in his arsenal and can shoot well from long range to stay in ballgames. THIS WEEK: at St. Frederick (Thu.)
9. Leesville (3-3): The Lady Cats have a new coach, but have jumped out of the gate with a modest 3-3 start. Leesville was too much for Ringgold at the City of Lights Tournament, holding it down to nine points, but dropped matchups to Huntington and St. Mary’s. We’ll find out a lot about the Lady Cats in December, as they will go against a number of teams that will likely make the LHSAA playoffs. THIS WEEK: vs. NCHS (Tues.), at Mansfield (Fri.).
10. Marksville (2-3): The Lady Tigers have a familiar face on the sidelines as Roslyn Wilmer takes over as coach of the program she helped lead to the LHSAA Top 28 in 2008. Marksville is talented at point guard with junior Hazel Young leading the way after a yeah where she. THIS WEEK: vs. Glenmora (Tues.).
Gafford’s 11th: Montgomery (3-1): The Lady Tigers have opened up the year winning three of four — only losing to Rapides by four points to start the season. In that game, they limited Mustangs center Jaeden Vaifanua to five points and six rebounds — a tough task. THIS WEEK: at Calvin (Tues.), Converse tournament (Dec. 3-5).