Unlike a few recent games, the Hahnville girls got off to a quick start in their game Friday night against visiting Thibodaux.
Hahnville was aggressive on both ends of the court to start the game, building a quick lead on the way to a District 7-5A-clinching 54-42 win.
Hahnville improved to 10-0 in district play and 22-3 overall. With a three-game lead over the rest of the field with two games remaining, Hahnville clinched the league title. Hahnville defeated a Thibodaux team that it shared a district championship a year ago, giving HHS coach Arriana Smith-Martin her first outright title in her four years at the helm.
The goal now, Smith-Martin said, is to close out the district slate undefeated.
“We still have two more games to finish it out. Like I told (the players), I want to be able to kind of claim it and I want 100 percent. I want them to have that 100 percent. No one needs to have to win it and then have that one team that actually beat them. I’m hoping to claim that next Thursday, officially,” Smith-Martin said.
Ah’Jaia Kenner scored the first six points of the game as Hahnville went on to build a lead of as many as 10 points in the opening quarter.
After Thibodaux’s first basket by A’Shyi Wolfe, it was Yelah Moses’ turn to score six-straight points to give Hahnville a 12-2 lead.
Moses, one of four seniors for Hahnville, led a balanced scoring attack with a team-high 14 points.
“This is the hardest team in our district, in my opinion, so we just had to come out and fight and play hard. With our team, you never really know who’s going to show up. We have a really good team and we have the potential to be a state championship team so today we just had to come back and play hard,” said Moses.
“In 27 games, she has played hard for me every time. I think maybe one – I will give her one where she just kind of sailed through and that would have been the East St. John game. But she really was that ‘go’ for us. That intensity from her raises up everybody else,” Smith-Martin said.
Hahnville’s lead was cut to 12-6 after the first quarter. After Moses scored the first basket of the second quarter, Thibodaux outscored Hahnville 15-5 to take its only lead of the game at 21-19.
Carlyn Wolfe had seven points and Wolfe six in the run.
“I had seniors and I had to figure out this new deal. I knew we could come out strong and win. I wanted that win and I wanted to try it keep it the same way I had it, but I also owed it to both my seniors that don’t start the opportunity to play at least in the first quarter. We went a little stagnant in regard to what went on at that time but we pulled it through later on,” said Smith-Martin, who got all four of her seniors early playing time on Senior Night.
Leading 26-24 at halftime, Hahnville score the first three baskets on of the second half on an inside basket by Kenner, a 3-pointer by senior LeJonne Blackmon and a layup by Kori Joseph after a turnover to lead by nine points on HHS’ way to a 36-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We had to keep the pace up and make them play to our pace and not really fall back and relax too much. In the third quarter, we knew we just had to come out hard and outscore them,” said Moses.
Another strong start to the fourth quarter extended Hahnville’s lead. It’s biggest lead of game was 14 points at 52-38 left in the game on a layup by senior Danae Lorio after a steal by Moses.
All eight of Lorio’s points came in the fourth quarter.
“I think she got frustrated. I kind of had to let her know because she started played playing defense, it’s not about just what you are scoring. You can go 0 for 10, if you are doing something on the other side, that makes it work and that’s why I like to watch her play. Even though her shot may not fall, she will give us defense 100 percent. That’s the big part about her. She can play both (offense and defense) but I had to pull her close and tell her to realize, ‘you’re not scoring, that’s great, but make those defensive turnovers and at the end you are going to get those simple layups,’” said Smith-Martin.
The 54-42 final gave Hahnville the district title.
After briefly falling behind, Hahnville didn’t do anything particularly different in pulling ahead for good in the second half, according to Smith-Martin.
“Everything was running for us,” the Hahnville coach said. “Basically, our offense was running. We were timid in passing but we held the ball and made good passes. We just weren’t finishing. When we’re not making the simple layups that we needed to make, it kind of put us in a damper when it comes to defense.
“That was the big thing, so for me, I was like, ‘you guys just need to come out and play your game. Finish the shots they are giving us. Make those layups. Don’t be looking to be bailed out by the officials. Just give us the two (points) and move on.’ It kind of reversed but the flipside of it is that if we pick up our defense, your offense will fall right into place and that’s what happened.”
Kenner finished with 10 points for Hahnville while Joseph chipped in eight and senior Paceley Williams seven.
Thibodaux, which fell to 6-4 in district and 18-9 overall, was paced by Wolfe and Smith, each with 14 points.
The district title and high state seeding have been four years in the making for Smith-Martin and her squad.
“From Day One, I was going at it,” Smith-Martin said. “The kids had to get to know me. The seniors from four years ago, they never had what I offered the (current) girls, which is stability, knowing I would be here. I made them work and I’ve taken care of them. I’ve taken care of all these girls through the past four years. What they didn’t have was appreciated. So the girls I am celebrating four years, they knew me for four years. I’ve taken care of them. They are spoiled rotten but I took care of them. For them, everything has pretty much been the same the past four years.”
“As far as anything else, it was a building block for me,” the Hahnville coach continued. “Eventually, with what we had coming in, I knew it would be great. I didn’t think it would be like this but it takes a lot of work. They are really starting to listen, especially around this time right now. So, we are going to enjoy the moment, enjoy the ride, and however far it takes us, we will go.”