Lady Chiefs survive in tight battle with West Monroe
By LaMar Gafford
There is never a dull moment in District 2-5A between its teams. Especially when the playoffs are involved. After splitting the season series and winning on each other’s courts, Natchitoches Central held on to the home-court advantage to defeat West Monroe, 47-46, in the LHSAA Class 5A regionals.
“A lot of times this district prepares us for the playoffs,” Lady Chiefs coach Nikki Jones said. “Night in, night we have to come ready to play. It’s just said that sometimes, we meet up so many times in the playoffs that we have to knock each other out.”
NCHS senior Caytreonna Brown made one of two free throws with 11.6 seconds left to force the Lady Rebels to attempt a 3-pointer to tie the game, but Dezarae Stewart and Faith Robinson hit the front end of the iron despite getting good looks at the basket. Amaya West added a putback as time expired but could not draw a foul from the defense.
“We had a play where we got it in to D-rae and she would drive and get a look or kick it to Faith or Lay-Lay (Layden Farrar) — whoever was the first one open would shoot,” West Monroe coach John Green said. “We had two relatively decent looks, but they just didn’t go.”
While the first half was riddled with fouls, the second half was about both teams exchanging runs and defense as the Lady Chiefs would get big leads twice, but West Monroe found an answer each time.
“West Monroe came out and played extremely hard,” Jones said. “We had three players from West Monroe that we were going to key on and their freshman (West) stepped up and played a great game tonight and we weren’t really prepared for her to do that, so we had to adjust.”
NCHS (21-8) had a rough night from Lady Chief freshman guard J’unti Franklin, who closed the game with four points before fouling out, but Teanna Payton were determined to not let their final game in The Teepee be a loss. Payton closed the night with 19 points and was key late along with Brown.
“Those are two of our seniors. They been here before and they want to get back,” Jones said. “I think the pressure got to J’unti. She didn’t have one of her best games, but she’s been playing well for us all year. She’s a freshman and the pressure kind of got to her, but I’m looking for her to bounce back the next game.”
West Monroe (24-9) had its chances from the free-throw line too but was only able to go to the line twice in the second half. Stewart closed with 15 points, while Robinson had seven.
“The last we came down here, we were stellar from the free-throw line and we won,” Green said. “We can’t miss free throws.”
NCHS will travel to No. 2-seed Walker Thursday in the Class 5A quarterfinals with a shot at the girls Marsh Madness tournament on the line.