NEW IBERIA – New Iberia coaches Robert Pinckney and Jeremy Bonin knew their Lady Jackets were much better than their 16-13 overall record indicated, but they understood health issues contributed to their struggles in the regular season.
But with that said, Pinckney and Bonin were confident that if their Lady Jackets got into the playoffs — which they expected to happen — they believed a healthy roster would represent a bad draw for their opponent.
“Our motto right now has been let’s just get in,” said Bonin during an interview in January. “We don’t care what number we are seeded, just let us get in.”
Well, the Lady Jackets got in, earned a No. 11 seed and have held true to their promise to make the most of the opportunity as they’ve defeated No. 22 Ruston (56-44) in the bi-district round and District 3-5A foe Sulphur (45-40) in the regional round to move within one win of reaching the Ladies’ Top 28 for the first time since 1981 when they won the state championship.
“We’re extremely excited,” said Bonin, whose team will play host to No. 3-seed West Monroe on Saturday at 6 p.m. “Our girls have been very determined in the playoffs. They are determined to win and I just hope it continues.”
Being able to beat a Sulphur team that defeated the Lady Jackets twice and rolled to the District 3-5A championship meant a lot to New Iberia (18-13), who admits they’ve been focused on the big picture all season.
“Ultimately, our goal has never been and never will be to win a district championship,” Bonin said. “Our goal is to win the state championship. Our schedule was a grind this year and we played everybody.”
Although many will attribute the Lady Jackets’ improved play to simply being healthy, Bonin believes there is more things that have played instrumental roles in the success they’ve enjoyed recently.
“A lot of it has to do with our health being better,” Bonin said. “But we have to give some credit to our boy’s coach Todd Russ joining us on the sidelines for the past seven to nine games because he has been a huge help. Also, I think our girls’ overall commitment has had a lot to do with it. Our girls have given up their weekends and the Mardi Gras holiday for this one shot.”
The trials and tribulations the Lady Jackets have endured this season have only brought them closer according to Bonin, who said the team is hoping to do the same within the community through basketball.
“Making it to the Top 28 would mean everything to us,” Bonin said. “We would love nothing more than the opportunity to play for a state championship. But, I truly believe getting there is more important to these kids. We always say that we are changing the culture and our future through the game of basketball. We have kids on our team from different parts of our community and we’re trying to bring the town closer.”
Mt. Carmel 75, Carencro 55
New Iberia 50, Sulphur 45
Natchitoches Central 70, Acadiana 46
Breaux Bridge 47, St. Michael 44
Rayne 57, St. Thomas More 34
University 74, Northwest 48
E.D. White 50, Notre Dame 38
Iota at Ville Platte, today
North Central 80, Ascension Catholic 21
Merryville 53, Gueydan 44
Arcadia 65, Lafayette Christian 32
Vermilion Catholic at Plain Dealing, today
Anacoco 37, Midland 28