Denham Springs, Baker share common ground

Denham Springs High and Baker High don’t typically run in the same girls basketball circles. After all, Denham Springs is in Class 5A and Baker is in 3A.

But on Friday, the two schools share two common bonds. First, they will be the Baton Rouge area teams headed to other parts of the state to play Louisiana High School Athletic Association semifinal games. Second, rebounding is a part of the game plan for each team.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that a big part of Southwood’s success has always been rebounding,” Denham Springs coach Shelly Laprarie said. “Their thing is they’ll limit you to one shot and then get two or three on their end. We have to be able to rebound.”

Baker (23-5) is set to open the Southwest Regional. The second-seeded Buffaloes, the Class 3A runner-up three years ago, play No. 6 Abbeville (27-6) at 4:30 p.m. at the Lake Charles Civic.

Meanwhile, fifth-seeded Denham Springs (26-5) will close a five-game schedule at the Bossier City-based North Regional. The Yellow Jackets play top-seeded Southwood-Shreveport (31-1) at 8 p.m. at the CenturyLink Center.

“We need to be able to play defense and do the things we’ve done all year,” Baker coach Michael Stephens said. “If we do, I like our chances. But Abbeville has a very good guard and a couple of post players who are big and strong.

“They’re going to be bigger than us. We have to box out and keep them getting extra shots at the goal.”

Baker broke through for a semifinals appearance after losing in the quarterfinals for the past two years. Denham Springs, by contrast, was a semifinalist two years ago, losing to Southwood, 39-21.

Several key players for the Yellow Jackets, including top juniors Caletria Curtis and Carlisha Kinchen, played in that game. Curtis and Kinchen each average 13 points per game to lead DSHS.

Laprarie points to her team’s quarterfinal win over No. 4 West Monroe as a measure of how far her team has come since 2011.

“We lost our composure in that game, and we were very young,” Laprarie said. “I think we have learned from that. We fell behind against West Monroe, but we didn’t panic.”

Southwood is led by post player Courtney Pennywell, who averages 15.2 points. Guards Chelsea Tieuel (12.6) and Jessy Ellis (12.4) are other leaders.

Abbeville is led by guard Derrian Nolan and post player Bianca Levy.