Luke, Tucker top girls elite team

St. James' Korielle Tucker was named the MVP on the All-Region girls basketball team. (Photo by File)

When the 2011-12 girls high school basketball season started, the players and coaches at Vandebilt Catholic and St. James were forced to deal with early adversity.

For Vandebilt, it was trying to adjust to losing two starters to season-ending injuries just days before the start of the regular season.

For St. James, it was defending a state championship with a new coach and several new starters in the lineup.

The early adversity was a challenge, but it didn't derail the dreams of both teams.

Vandebilt finished the season with a 29-3 overall record and made it all the way to the Class 4A semifinals, where it suffered a 51-42 loss to eventual state runner-up Salmen.

St. James capped its season with a 27-6 record and a trip to the Class 3A semifinals, where it lost 64-62 in two overtimes to eventual state runner-up Albany.

For their success, Vandebilt coach Kathy Luke was selected as The Courier and Daily Comet's All-Region Coach of the Year, and St. James senior Korielle Tucker was voted All-Region Girls' MVP.

The Lady Terriers overcame injuries to juniors Jasmine Howard and Laci LeBlanc, two key starters on the team, to advance to the Class 4A semifinals for the fourth year in a row and the fifth time in the last six years.

Luke, in her 26th season at Vandebilt, said the accomplishments from this season were because of her players' hard work and resiliency.

"Anytime you are recognized, you need to understand that the kids are the reason why I'm able to do what I do," Luke said. "I've got a great group of kids, and I give them all the credit because basketball is a team game. This award is really a team award. I have good players, a good assistant coach and a supportive administration that all help me to make our program the best that it can be."

Vandebilt had two players on the All-Region first team in senior center Leah Washington and junior guard Shakira Harding.

Washington, a member of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 4A second team, averaged 11 points per game with eight rebounds per game, 2.2 assists per game, 2.3 steals per game and 1.0 blocks per contest. Washington has verbally committed to play at Spring Hill College.

Harding, who was named the District 8-4A MVP and was a honorable mention on the LSWA team, finished with 9.2 points per game, 1.5 assists and 1.8 steals.

Luke said the entire Vandebilt team stepped up and kept working after the injuries.

"They overcame each obstacle that was put in their path," Luke said. "They had a sense of togetherness. We had some fine goals that we wanted to achieve. They stayed focused on that goal, and they did everything they possibly could in order to reach that goal. Although we did come up short in not winning a state championship, I don't think anyone would look at this team and say they failed in any way."

Tucker, the MVP of District 7-3A, guided the Lady Wildcats to the Class 3A semifinals with 13.5 points per game, six rebounds per game and 4.5 steals per game.

First-year St. James coach Greg Wood said Tucker, who is getting looks from several colleges, deserved the award for her play this season.

"Korielle was probably one of the hardest working girls on the basketball floor during a game," Wood said. "She worked hard on the floor, especially on defense, and she always found a way to get her teammates involved."

The other St. James player on the first team was senior Dasha Adams, who averaged 12.5 points per game, four steals per game and 4.5 assists per contest.

After the Lady Wildcats lost six seniors, including four starters, from their state championship team last season, Wood said they came together due to the leadership of their seniors this season.

"It was a totally different team, and we had to find an identity of our own," Wood said. "Our three seniors, Korielle, Dasha and Shikera (Braxton), stepped up to the plate and took over that role of leading the team. We needed that leadership to step up, and they all did it."

Other players on the First Team are Assumption senior Jasmin Mills and Terrebonne junior Raina Diggs.

Mills, a Louisiana-Lafayette signee, helped lead the Lady Mustangs to a 23-9 record and a trip to the second-round of the Class 4A playoffs with a 18.6 points per game average. She also notched 10.8 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game and 1.2 steals per game.

Diggs, who was the MVP of the District 7-5A, scored 13.8 points per game to go with 3.9 rebounds per game, 5.1 assists per game and 3.9 steals per game. The Lady Tigers finished the season at 21-8 overall.

H.L. Bourgeois' Shannon Jones, Ellender's Netikie Johnson, E.D. White Catholic's Genna Larose, St. James' Shikera Braxton, Houma Christian's Kendra Ezell-Turner and Terrebonne's Tyroneeka Howard are all members voted to the All-Region second team.

All of the members of the second team were selected as All-State honorable mentions in their respective classes.