But there is still one major obstacle blocking their way - the Avoyelles Lady Mustangs.
The Lady Pios and the Lady Mustangs will battle it out Thursday evening at 6 o’clock in a Class AAA semifinal contest at the University Center on the campus of Southeastern University in Hammond.
“We feel pretty good and I think we’re ready to go,” said Notre Dame coach Nolan Theriot, whose squad enters with a 30-3 record. “The are pretty excited about getting out there and showing what they can do and I think it’s a good matchup for us. I don’t see where they are that much better, if at all, than Baker.”
Sure, Avoyelles enters the game sporting an impressive 28-1 record with their lone loss being a 53-51 defeat to Class 4A Tioga. But the Lady Mustangs also dropped a 76-32 decision to Ville Platte on Jan. 22 in Pine Prairie. But that contest doesn’t count towards their overall record due to the fact that it was a Hall of Fame game. It also was played less than 24 hours after Avoyelles defeated Marksville, 60-44, the night before.
“Avoyelles is a very good team,” said Theriot. “They are definitely better than the first two teams we played (in the playoffs). They have a solid five. It’s probably the most solid five that we’ve seen all year. Now, how good they are when they have to sub, we’ll see. But we’re definitely prepared for those five.”
Avoyelles is coming off a dramatic 59-58 victory over Amite in which sophomore guard Kourtney McGee sank three free throws with three seconds remaining to win the game.
McGee scored 10 points in that game and added 12 in a 69-54 regional victory over Richwood.
But McGee is just one of many offensive threats the Lady Mustangs possess.
Forward India Marbs has led the charge, scoring 22 points in the quarterfinals and eight in the regionals. She is joined in the post by sophomore Keonta Nelson, who posted 11 points against Amite and 18 against Richwood.
“Marbs is a really solid post player,” said Theriot. “She’s a post player, but if she’s out on the perimeter, you have to respect her shot because she can knock down the three.”
McGee runs the point while Markeisha Johnson, who scored 36 points in the last two games, is the off guard.
“The have some really good guards,” said Theriot. “Their point guard (McGee) can take you off the dribble. She makes the thing go. She handles the rock and they set up some things to free her up so she can just take it to the hole. The other guard can really shoot the three, but she’s not a threat to dribble drive.”
The Lady Mustangs get contributions from all five starters and are averaging just over 67 points per game.
“They get out there and run the floor,” said Theriot. “They like to push it and that’s odd for a team that’s only playing five people.”
Theriot says Avoyelles does like to press opponents on occasion, but for the most part, they eventually fall back in a 2-3 defense as they did in the second half against Amite.
“I haven’t seen a team other than a couple that has actually pushed them to make them play defense,” said Theriot. “They’re out there trying to get easy baskets off the trap. If you get the ball quickly up the court, now they have to get back and forth in transition and eventually it starts to wear on you. Hopefully we can get them a little fatigued or in foul trouble by pushing the ball at them.”
The floor general who will be doing most of that pushing is senior guard Taylor Simon. She has been the leading scorer in the last three games for the Lady Pios while senior forward Kylie Pannell and Alex Miller have also been key contributors as well as Marie Ledet and Marie Charles. All have led the team in scoring at least once this season.
“We have a lot of options out there,” said Theriot. “If I was scouting us, I don’t know what I’d do. To me, if I had the type of team that could play man, I’d have to come out there and play us man cause you can’t just let us sit out there and shoot it.”
And the key, as has been all year with Theriot’s team, is aggressiveness.
“We’ve got to push the ball and stay out of foul trouble,” said Theriot. “If the players that we need to stay on the floor stay out of foul trouble and we’re able to go, I think we will give them some problems. We’re going to press at different times so we can increase the tempo of the ballgame.”