Revamped Lady Gators hungry for a playoff appearance

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
St. Amant head coach Kristy Englade and her Lady Gators will be seeking a second district title in three years. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

The St. Amant Lady Gators may be young, but they still remember being shut out of the playoffs last year for the first time in three seasons.

It was an excruciating way to end 2015. St. Amant finished with a solid 18-13 record and even won six of their final seven games, but it was the one loss that hurt them when tying to secure a playoff seed.

The Lady Gators dropped a tight showdown with district champion St. Joseph's Academy. That was the one defeat that ended a run of two straight postseason appearances.

Many players have not returned from that team--including District MVP Kara Gremillion and point guard Abby Diez. However, the players that have returned are determined to get back to the playoffs.

"I think they're hungry. They saw that it only took one or two games last year, and it was that close," Lady Gator head coach Kristy Englade said. "I always ask each senior class, 'How do you want to be remembered?' They have high expectations, and I hope we can build on it. We just have to put the pieces together."

St. Amant does return two starters in point guard Ne'Kyla Williams (first-team all-district performer from last year) and forward Vanessa Thomas. They also bring back a player with ample experience in Megan Marchand.

Englade is expecting Williams--a three-year starter--to carry the team this season.

"Ne'Kyla has pretty good leadership skills," Englade said. "If she can keep pushing them and keep them in the right direction, we'll be all right. She'll grow into that leadership role, and the kids will follow her."

There are a few players that lack experience, but Englade is expecting them to step up in their quest for the playoffs. These players include Jare' Birdis, Haley Fontenot and Darcus Deverteuil.

They'll have to learn and learn fast if the Lady Gators want to bring home another district title. St. Amant last won the league championship in 2014. It was their first in 20 years.

"I think having them get bumped around these first couple of games and seeing the quickness of the game of basketball will help them," Englade said. "They're going to see that they're either going to step up, or they're going to make room for some younger players.

"That's what I'm excited about. We have some youth for the future. We just have some lack of experience that we're dealing with right now. I think this preseason is extremely important to get us ready for district."

St. Amant has had some bad luck to start the season. They've had to mix and match their starting lineups due to starters being sidelined.

Fontenot had to miss some action early on with a concussion, and Thomas was also forced to miss time after being under the weather.

In one of their early-season wins over St. Charles, Englade thought this lack of continuity affected her team, as well as their struggles in pushing the ball downcourt.

"I'd like to see us improve in getting down the floor in transition and being able to see the defensive man," Englade said. "They have been trying to get a feel for one another and how to play together. We haven't had a group play together for very long."

The Lady Gators will try to put it all together as they continue their pre-district schedule against the likes of Chalmette, St. Scholastica and Episcopal. They play their first district game against Broadmoor on Jan. 11.