Lady Pios set for quarterfinal showdown

Notre Dame’s Sam Lyons goes up for a shot over a defender during the Lady Pios’ 57-29 Class 3A regional playoff victory over Green Oaks Monday. The Lady Pios will travel to Albany this evening for a 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal matchup with the Lady Hornets. (Photo by Christell Faul)

CROWLEY – The Notre Dame Lady Pios are on the verge of advancing to the Girls’ Top 28 for just the third time in the school’s history.
The only thing standing in their way: No. 4-seeded Albany.
The No. 5-seeded Lady Pios will travel to Albany today to take on the Lady Hornets in a Class 3A quarterfinal contest at 6:30 p.m.
“When the brackets came out, I figured if everything went as planned and we were able to get to the quarters, we would be playing Albany,” said Notre Dame coach Nolan Theriot, whose team is 26-4 on the season.
“Coaching-staff wise, we’ve been preparing for this for a while. Not trying to get ahead of ourselves, but when you’re playing on a Monday night and you only have two days to prepare, it’s not like you have a whole lot of time to scout. If you don’t have it mostly prepared before then, you’re not really going to be prepared.
“Albany is everything they are built up to be. They have guards that can play and they have a really good post player that can give you trouble.”
The Lady Hornets (27-6) are coming off a pair of routs against No. 29 Buckeye (63-32) and Caldwell Parish (67-40) and are looking to advance to the Top 28 for the third straight season. They lost to eventual state champion Rayville last year in the semifinals and fell in the finals in 2012 to Loyola.
The Lady Hornets are led by forwards MeMe Sykes and Danielle Brown. Sykes is more of a guard who does most of her damage from the wings while Brown is your typical power forward standing at 6-foot-0.
“Sykes is a good spot up shooter and she crashes the boards,” said Theriot. “She plays that forward spot and she shoots well out in the corner so you have to have someone within range to contest that shot.”
Brown is a different beast in the paint.
“She is a load down there to keep off the boards,” said Theriot of Brown, who averages 15.6 points per game. “She is one of those kids that might not make everything, but she’s going back after the basketball. The big thing for us is going to be to keep her from getting to the block; once she gets it down there, it’s going to be hard for us to contest standing up.
“It’s going to be to block her out because she hits the boards pretty good.”
The Lady Hornets take advantage of Brown in the post, but they also like to run the court with guards Lauren Thompson and T’Keyah Jarrett. Thompson is averaging 13.4 points per outing and Jarrett is averaging just under 10.
“They are a transition-style team and they really don’t want to run a half-court offense,” said Theriot. “They’re not really looking to run anything in particular in transition, but they are running the lanes and pushing the defense to get back.”
The Lady Pios are also a transition-style team, but depending on the situation, Theriot may opt to pull back the reigns just a little.
“The plan is to not veer off from what we do,” said Theriot. “But we are definitely going to have to be a bit more mindful that running offense is good. Part of our game plan will be that our offense will be part of our defense. If they don’t have the basketball then they can’t score.”
That doesn’t mean the Lady Pios will run a stall offense the entire game. It just means they will have to pick and choose their spots to force the tempo.
“It’s important for us when we push the ball up the court to get good looks,” said Theriot. “We can’t get in a situation where we’re pushing it up, taking a shot and missing because that’s what they want.
“An up-and-down game, I don’t know who that would favor so it’s important for us to get great looks every possession.
“I’m not saying that we won’t push the ball. If we have the opportunity, we want to push it, but we also know that they don’t really want to be on the defensive side.”
Another thing that the Lady Pios will have to contend with will be what promises to be a very vocal crowd. This will be the Lady Pios first road game of the postseason.
“They have a great tradition and they are going to have a huge crowd there,” said Theriot. “In that area, high school ball is what they do. It’s going to be a big atmosphere. But luckily for us, we’ve been on the road a bit in some big games and we’ve had to deal with the crowds and the hostility, so I think we’re definitely battle-tested as far as that goes.”
Fans making the trip to Albany this evening are urged to leave a little early to avoid traffic congestion.
“With it being all the way over there near Hammond, I don’t know if we will travel well, but we would definitely like all of our fans to come out,” said Theriot.

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