Fontz, Harding top newspaper's elite squad
Fri. March 29, 2013 at 10:29 p.m. | By Kelly McElroy/Staff Writer
Vandebilt Catholic's Shakira Harding was named the Most Valuable Player of this year's Courier and Daily Comet All-Region girls basketball team. (Photo by File photo)
Before this past girls basketball season, over 30 years had gone by since the E.D. White Catholic girls basketball team won more than two playoffs games in a season.
But the 2012-13 Lady Cardinals put an end to that streak.
E.D. White rolled off a 25-6 overall record, won the District 7-3A title and advance to the quarterfinal round for the first time since 1980, and for leading the Lady Cardinals to their best season in over three decades, E.D. White coach Darin Fontz was named The Courier and Daily Comet's 2013 All-Region girls basketball Coach of the Year.
While Fontz and E.D. White enjoyed maybe the most memorable girls basketball season in school history, the way things ended for the Vandebilt Catholic girls team this season was utterly forgettable.
After topping Salmen 48-44 in the Class 4A quarterfinals on Feb. 25, questions again arose about the eligibility of a Lady Terriers player, and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association ruled the player ineligible and bounced Vandebilt from the playoffs.
Days of legal wrangling followed with the player's parents fighting the ruling in court, which led to the Lady Terriers taking the basketball court on March 1 for a potential semifinal against St. Michael in Hammond, but minutes before the game, a Baton Rouge court ruled the Lady Terriers back out of the playoffs and Salmen in, and the Lady Terriers were forced to forfeit all games the player participated in the last two seasons.
Still, the top player for the Lady Terriers this season was senior guard Shakira Harding, and despite what happened off the court at the end of the season, The Courier and Daily Comet voted Harding its 2013 All-Region girls basketball MVP.
Harding averaged 12.5 points, three steals, two rebounds and two assists a game this season in leading a balanced Lady Terriers attack. She was a Class 4A all-state first-team selection and named first team all-District 8-4A.
"It's an awesome honor," Harding said. "It means a lot to me because I have played with or against a lot of the girls from this area since I was 7 or 8 years old. I am so honored. I have worked hard since I was little and to have a lasting impression on my hometown really feels awesome. I feel appreciated, like everything I have done has paid off."
Like Harding and the Lady Terriers, E.D. White too just missed out on playing in a semifinal game this year as it capped its stellar year following a 38-33 loss at Baker in the quarterfinals. Fontz said receiving the award was more about what his team accomplished this season than his individual effort.
"It's a tribute to the team we had this year and the senior leadership we had," Fontz said. "We had two seniors returning with a lot of experience and some good, young talent to mix in there with them. We are happy with the way they came together and became a team by the time district rolled around."
Those two E.D. White seniors were Jordan Gros and Genna Larose and both join Harding as first-team All-Region players. As a first-team all-state player and the District 7-3A MVP this season, Gros averaged 17.3 points and 9.1 rebounds a game, and Larose, also a first-team all-district player and honorable mention all-state player, averaged 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
"Watching those two mature as not only players, but as young ladies, has been one of the highlights of my career," Fontz said. "They came out as youngsters early on and were wide-eyed, but they matured on and off the court and were outstanding leaders for us. They led in practice. They led in games, and without them, this would not have been possible. They were responsible for allowing this team to come together."
Fontz said the E.D. White community rallied around the Lady Cardinals, who before the season even started had some extra motivation to go as far as they could in the playoffs.
"We have all the sports listed up in the gym and how they do in state competition," Fontz said. "We saw there was a big glaring spot up there for girls basketball. They last time they had been past the second round was 1980. We made that one of our goals this year. We wanted to win the district title, make the playoffs and advance as far as we could. We made it to the quarterfinals. The kids really caught on to it."
And there was a special group of fans who supported the E.D. White girls throughout the season.
"There are some ladies who still live in Thibodaux who were on that 1980 team, and I talked to them on occasion. They were very proud and very supportive of the girls and the effort they gave," Fontz said. "It was awesome how the student body really turned out when we had that second-round game at home. The girls were ecstatic about that."
Harding said despite how the season ended for the Lady Terriers, she will always be proud of what they accomplished on the floor.
"Even though our season didn't end well, it was an awesome season," Harding said. "I will relish how my team bonded. I think out of the five years at Vandebilt, I made the most connection with this team. We had so much fun together in school and out of school, at practice and in the games. We all got along so well, especially our seniors. Leadership is a big thing, especially when trying to accomplish something as big as a state championship, and even though it didn't end with a state championship, I think we were capable of winning it if we would have gotten the chance."
Harding's Vandebilt teammate, senior Jasmine Howard, is another first team All-Region player.
She was the team's top post presence this season and was instrumental in helping the Lady Terriers top Salmen, who went on to win the Class 4A title, on the court Feb. 25 in the quarterfinals. Howard, 5-foot-10, went head-to-head with Salmen's 6-5 center Kalani Brown and outscored her 14-8. Howard also averaged 10 points a game this season.
The two final first-team All-Region players include Amari Banks, a junior from Ellender, and Eris Stove, a junior from Thibodaux High.
Banks, an all-state honorable mention selection, was the District 8-4A MVP and led a balanced Ellender attack with 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. The Lady Patriots went 16-7 and qualified for the playoffs this season.
Stove, an all-state honorable mention selection, was a first-team District 7-5A player and led Thibodaux to the first round of the playoffs and an 18-10 record by averaging 16 points, nine rebounds and three steals a game.
The All-Region second team is made up of seniors Shannon Jones of H.L. Bourgeois, Darian Dees of Terrebonne, Kaitlin Bartholomew of St. James and sophomores Amanda Gianelloni of Assumption, Kiara Scott of Ellender and Hannah Naquin of Houma Christian.