SWLA road to Alexandria could be crowded

Southwest Louisiana sent a quartet of teams to the girls state tournament in Alexandria last year, with Lake Arthur and Merryville both finished as runner-up. That number could rise this year with several of the area’s top players back to make another run at bringing a state title to the area.

Among the top returning players are high-scoring guard Dominique Davis of DeRidder, a LSU commitment and fist team all state selection; Alexandria Goodly of St. Louis, an all state performer as a sophomore who missed last season due to injury; Oakdale’s tandem of Sanaa and KaMasha St. Andre, first and second team all state selections, respectively; Fairview’s Maggie Manuel, a 20 point per game scorer and all state selection as a sophomore and Johnson Bayou’s Grace Young, also an all state selection as a sophomore.

Among the large schools, a tight race is again expected in District 3-5A, where LaGrange, Sulphur and Sam Houston all return the nucleus of their teams.

The Broncos return all five starters after reaching the quarterfinals last year. The Broncos are led by guards Kyla Hamilton and Jil Poullard.

"This is the first time since I have been here that we have every starter back," said head coach Jason Jagneaux. "We are looking forward to a great season, the kids worked hard all summer to get better. I think pushing the ball and shooting the three are going to be our strengths."

Jagneaux expects another close district race.

"Sulphur going to be good, LaGrange is probably going to be the favorite, New Iberia is going to be improved and so is Acadiana, who I think has everybody back. The district is always competitive."

The Gators return top players Aasia Sam, Jeriah Warren and Nadailyn Carrier. Head coach La’Keem Holmes said depth will be a strength for his team.

"We have kids who are really unselfish and bought into being stars in their roles," he said. "This is probably the most athletic group we have had since I’ve been here."

Holmes wants his team to show more consistency.

"We have a tendency to play to our level of competition," he said. "Our focus varies, a common issue with younger teams. I’m hoping we mature this year."

Holmes said there will be plenty of quality teams in the area this season.

"Sam Houston is a well-coached squad who returns their whole team, they knocked us out of the playoffs. Sulphur is always good, only graduated two girls and return post Mo Patterson, a difference maker in the paint. At St. Louis Alexandria Goodly is special, I’m glad she’s back. Washington Marion is much improved. Elton and Grand Lake both have good squads. Barbe, Iowa and South Beauregard have new coaches and have young teams, I’ll keep an eye on their development. It’s a exciting year in girls basketball."

Other top returnees at small schools include Jamaica and Jameica Jones at Elton, Diamond and Deonna Brister at Lake Arthur, Maddie Mahfouz of Merryville and Brooklyn Fontenot of Kinder.””<p>FILE PHOTO: In this 2017 photo, Barbe’s Khayjah Jack (25) wrestles the ball away from Fairview’s Laynae Jinks (1) and Maggie Manuel (40).</p>Rodrick Anderson/American Press

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