Lady Terriers head into 3rd-straight semifinals

March 15-April 15: 13th annual Jubilee Festival of the Arts (Thibodaux)
March 1, 2011
Elder abuse … old enough to know better
March 3, 2011
March 15-April 15: 13th annual Jubilee Festival of the Arts (Thibodaux)
March 1, 2011
Elder abuse … old enough to know better
March 3, 2011

Vandebilt Catholic girls basketball coach Kathy Luke is the first person to admit she leads a simple life.

From that self-proclaimed uneventful day-to-day grind of being a basketball coach, the coach said during the course of her two and a half decades in the profession, she has developed three priorities to live by.

The first two are a given and never waiver or change. The third becomes a reality during special years for Luke’s team.

This season is officially one of those special years.

Thanks to a stout defensive effort and timely second half offense, Vandebilt is going back to Hammond, scoring a 47-32 quarterfinals win against St. Louis.

This year marks the third-straight season the Lady Terriers advance to the State Semifinals, and thus the third-straight season Luke fulfills her third and final life priority.

“This is what I live for. For me, it’s God, family and then going to Hammond, Louisiana to play basketball,” a beaming Luke said following the win. “That’s how it is for me. The people who know me know that I’m boring. I’m not the life of any parties. I don’t drink, smoke, I might cuss a little bit every now and then, but I promise you, going to Hammond is third on my list of priorities and this is exciting for me, it’s always exciting.”

The Lady Terriers’ final hurdle before their trip to the semifinals wasn’t an easy one, as St. Louis possessed enough talent and size in the paint to combat Vandebilt’s one-two inside punch of junior Leah Washington and sophomore D’Arcy Draper.

From that interior standstill, the teams played to a virtual draw in the opening half with Vandebilt holding a 24-23 halftime advantage.

When the Lady Terriers got into the lockers, Luke said she revamped the team’s game plan.

Whatever she said apparently worked, as Vandebilt outscored the Lady Saints 14-5 in the third quarter to take a 38-28 lead to close the third quarter. They never looked back and clinched the win.

“We had to make some major adjustments at halftime,” Luke said. “Thank God they got the message and executed.”

That message, according to Washington was to give better defensive effort and to protect the basketball – both of which are basic principles of the Lady Terriers’ program.

“We know that’s the only way we’re going to stop anyone is if we go hard on defense,” Washington said. “We definitely have to keep working on that and bring it for a full game next time.”

With defense creating a lead for Vandebilt, the Lady Terriers then were able to play keep away throughout the duration of the fourth quarter, working the clock, before getting to the free throw line when the clock forced the Lady Saints to foul.

Again, another trademark of the Lady Terriers’ program.

“That’s not an easy thing to do,” Luke said. “But it’s something we work on in practice every day. … We put it in the tank pretty early, but that’s all right. We ended up winning the game.”

With the win, Vandebilt took on No. 2 seed Bastrop in the semifinals Monday at 8 p.m. with a score unavailable at press time.

If the Lady Terriers are able to win, that would be a first for the Lady Rams who roll into Hammond with an unblemished 29-0 record.

But Vandebilt boasts quite a few “firsts” in their own right.

After all, this isn’t the same bunch that made it to Hammond in years past, returning just one of five starters from last year’s state title winning team.

This group is making their own mark – a mark that just might lead to yet another state title.

“We’re going back to Hammond, and I’m just so glad we are,” sophomore guard Lacie LeBlanc said. “We worked so hard for this and it’s just like all of the hard work in practice, overtimes and everything else just paid off in the long run. Everyone doubted us. They all doubted us and said we weren’t as good as the team from last year. We had to step it up and prove them all wrong.”

Luke agreed and said she could never rank her level of excitement when clinching a spot in Hammond. But she added this year’s accomplishments are near the top.

“Everybody has talked about us defending something all year,” Luke said. “We’re not defending anything. This is a totally different team. You can’t defend something when you have a totally different group of girls. … This is really big. What these girls have accomplished, it’s really big.”

Big enough for another state title? We’ll find out this week.

But either way, the Lady Terriers are going back to Hammond once more.

God, family and basketball in Hammond – Luke wouldn’t have it any other way.

Vandebilt Catholic girls’ basketball coach Kathy Luke cuts down the nets with her 7-year-old son Deuce following the Lady Terriers’ 47-32 quarterfinals win against St. Louis. CASEY GISCLAIR I TRI-PARISH TIMES