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Vandebilt seniors have overcome obstacles


Vandebilt Catholic senior Jasmine Howard (pictured) with other seniors, Shakira Harding, Sade Murrell, Laci LeBlanc have all overcome adversity during their career to lead the Lady Terriers back into the Class 4A playoffs. (Photo by File )


The senior class on the Vandebilt Catholic’s girls basketball team has taken a licking over the last two years, but they’ve managed to keep on ticking.

Three of Vandebilt’s four seniors have experienced setbacks in the form of injuries.

Forward Jasmine Howard and guard Laci LeBlanc missed their entire junior seasons with knee injuries, and guard Shakira Harding sat out several games earlier this year with a shoulder injury.

Through it all, the seniors have fought through it and contributed to Vandebilt’s success this season. The Lady Terriers, who are 26-4 overall and seeded third in the Class 4A playoffs, will play a regional round game at No. 19 Huntington at 6 tonight.

Vandebilt coach Kathy Luke said each of the seniors, which includes guard Sade Murrell, have faced adversity during their high school careers, but she knows the way they’ve faced the obstacles head on will help them long after their high school playing days are over.

“We’ve had our share of injuries and adversity,” Luke said. “We’ve learned to work through them, but that is the way it is in life. There are ups and downs in life, so hopefully they will take something really important away from this.”

Harding said the Lady Terriers’ ability to play through injuries is a testament to the team’s toughness, work ethic and discipline.

“I think all the obstacles that we’ve overcome have become part of our team identity,” Harding said. “That’s who we are. We’re Vandebilt. We play through it.”

Playing through injuries is nothing new for Harding. She said she suffered a kidney related injury during the Mardi Gras holiday that threatened to keep her from playing in Vandebilt’s bi-regional round playoff game against West Ouachita on Monday.

But Harding said the injury healed enough in time for her to play. She scored 10 points in the Lady Terriers’ 63-25 win over West Ouachita, saying that she wasn’t willing to miss the game for “nothing in the world.”

“I’m a senior this year. I only have a few amount of games left. I need to be on the floor,” Harding said. “I had to play and work through it and help my team. They needed me. It’s the playoffs. We need all the pieces of the puzzle fitting together. If one piece is out of place, then it’s not going to work, so I didn’t want to sit out.”

For Howard and LeBlanc, getting the chance to play in their senior year is a blessing, especially after watching their teammates play from the sidelines last season.

Howard said missing her junior season last year inspired her to come back stronger as a senior.

“Yes it really hurt watching my teammates play without me, but I knew I was going to eventually recover, get back out there and give it my all for the team,” said Howard, who has also played through a separated shoulder injury in her senior year. “You just have to have it in your mind that you really want to do it. You can overcome anything if you work hard at it.”

With their senior year of basketball winding down, LeBlanc said it is important to cherish every moment and give it their all every night.

“This is a very important time in our lives,” LeBlanc said. “We’re trying to use every motivation we can to get to the championship. People are doubting us. I feel like nobody can stop us. The way we work together and play as a team is just incredible.”

Vandebilt is looking to make it back to the Girls’ Top 28 state tournament and win its first state title since 2010.

Murrell said the Lady Terriers got off to a good start in their playoff win over West Ouachita. They know the competition will get tougher each round, but Murrell said Vandebilt has the leadership, experience and talent to go far.

“It felt pretty good to open the playoffs with a win,” Murrell said. “We prepared really hard all week. We were very excited to start the playoffs. This is what we’ve been waiting for. We just wanted come out strong and let everyone know we are all here. We’re back and we’re ready to take it all.”

Since winning the program’s first state title in 2010, Vandebilt has been eliminated in the state semifinal round in each of the last two seasons. 

Luke, in her 27th season as Vandebilt’s coach, said the Lady Terriers are still banged up and will have to get through a tough playoff bracket to win the school’s second state title this year, but she believes the team has a shot.

“We’re going to give it everything we got,” Luke said. “We’re going to prepare. We’re going to go into every game well-prepared, and we’re going to know what to expect. We just will have to execute.”

Every member of Vandebilt’s senior class said they are motivated to get past the semifinal hump and end their careers with another state championship. 

“We have some unfinished business,” Harding said. “Whatever it takes to get there and win another ring, we’re willing to do it.”