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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Lady Tarpons roll to Elite 8 in thrilling win

Lady Tarpons roll to Elite 8 in thrilling win

Give the LaGrange girls’ basketball team some credit. Their plan on paper was pretty good. They did everything in their power to deny South Lafourche junior guard Traya Bruce the basketball – especially in positions where she could attack.

The problem was that it just didn’t work – not even a little bit.

The South Lafourche junior guard seemingly had other plans, namely getting her team to the Elite 8 in the Class 4A State Playoffs for the first time in several seasons.

Bruce was dynamite for the No. 4 Lady Tarpons in Monday’s game, scoring a game-high 35 points to lead the Lady Tarpons to a tough, hard-fought 62-53 victory over No. 13 LaGrange in a game played before a wild, jam-packed crowd in The Tank in Galliano.

The dominant guard said after the game that she left everything out on the floor to help her team. In two playoff games this season, Bruce now has scored 74 combined points.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Bruce said of the dominant postseason run. “I’m just playing as hard as I can. That’s my goal – to just keep playing. I just want to play as hard as I can in one game, then give myself a chance to have another game for our team.”

Bruce and the Lady Tarpons were pretty darned good on Monday night.

But the Lady Gators were a worthwhile foe, too, which made for a thrilling, crowd-pleasing game.

The opening quarter set the tone – a back and forth eight-minute stretch which saw the Lady Tarpons go up 17-14 when it was all said and done.

Lady Tarpons coach Rainie Terrebonne altered her starting lineup for Monday night’s game, opting to utilize a double-post lineup with Abigail Bouzigard and Kacey Rousse on the floor to try and combat LaGrange post player Najah Brown.

The strategy worked early, and the Lady Tarpons generated offense and strong defense to build the early lead, which blossomed to a 30-23 advantage at halftime.

“I thought Abigail Bouzigard was very, very strong rebounding the ball tonight,” Terrebonne said after the game. “We were bigger to try and match their personnel, and we gave up some second chances, but I thought that outside of a few mistakes, we really did a pretty good job with them on defense.”

Terrebonne sat on the bench for Monday’s game, but was limited in her ability to coach. She said she nearly missed the game altogether after a medical emergency on Monday afternoon at school, which saw one side of her face and body go numb, before giving way to a severe migraine headache. Terrebonne said she then went to the hospital for tests, which came back clear.

She was ordered by doctors to not move around during the game, and to be still for a couple days as she attempts to recover. Terrebonne complied and sat down while assistant coach Donna Martin handled the on-court duties.

“It was scary,” Terrebonne said. “But I trust my coaches, and I trust my players, so that put me at ease.”

But in the second half, things did get a little tense for everyone involved. South Lafourche kept their seven-point halftime lead steady in the third quarter, taking a 43-36 advantage into the fourth quarter.

But then the Lady Gators came storming back, using several baskets by Brown and senior guard Dalaisha Thomas to cut the lead to one – 45-44 with six minutes to play.

But then Bruce took over.

Every time LaGrange got close in the fourth quarter, Bruce created some scoreboard separation for her team, using an array of interior moves and dribble-drives to pound the Lady Gators’ defense into submission.

Lady Gators coach LaKeem Holmes said her relentlessness was the difference in the game.

“We tried to deny her. We tried to guard her close. We tried everything, and she still found a way,” Holmes said. “She’s a great player, and at home in these types of games, great players have that ability to take over games, and she took over the game for their team late.”

The dagger came late in the game when the Lady Tarpons stalled nearly two minutes off the clock in a single possession before generating points – a period in the game that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

From there, South Lafourche got a few more defensive stops, then fruitful free throw trips, which sealed the win.

In victory, the Lady Tarpons will advance to the Quarterfinals in Class 4A where they will host No. 5 Northside on Thursday night.

Tip-off for that game will be at 6:30 p.m., and both Terrebonne and Bruce said it will be a wild night in Galliano – much like Monday night, which had standing room only throughout the gym.

“We expect a huge crowd,” Terrebonne said. “We will be ready for it.”

“I don’t hear it when I’m on the court,” Bruce said. “But then you look around the gym and realize, ‘Wow, look at these people,’ or you’re trying to communicate during timeouts and it’s hard to hear. We know it’s going to be packed on Thursday. We just want to do what we can to give them something to cheer about.”