Northwood girls basketball on mission to avenge state title loss with four 1,000-point scorers

LaMar Gafford
Alexandria Town Talk

LENA — The team that sets milestones together wins together.

As Northwood’s girls basketball team focuses on a return to the LHSAA Marsh Madness tournament, its core players had the first on what they hope to be many celebrations this season.

During halftime of their 54-18 win against St. Mary’s last Friday, the Lady Gators (25-1, 6-0 District 3-1A) honored sophomore Rhianna Battles, junior Na’Kiyah Allen and seniors Elondra Williams and Liyah Perry for reaching 1,000 points.

“I’ve had them for five years and since Day 1, they’ve come in ready to work,” Northwood coach Lashonda Cooper said. “They’ve come so far physically, but I’m more impressed of the mentality that these girls have this year. They’ve been pushing each other and trying to get over the adversity hump.”

Cooper has relied on those four players since leading her team to a breakthrough season in 2020, when it won its first playoff game in school history.

Northwood High SchoolÕs NaÕKiyah Allen (23) grabs a rebound against a St. Mary defender Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. Northwood won 54-18.

Battles is averaging 6.3 assists during district play and continues to establish herself as a top point guard with her court vision. Allen has recorded numerous double-doubles this season, provided a presence in the post and recently scored 25 points in a district game against Block.

The senior leadership Perry and Williams have provided has been invaluable, as Perry nearly had a triple-double of 18 points, 16 rebounds and nine steals against Logansport on Jan. 18. Williams is also a solid scoring contributor (20 points against Block) and defender.

GIRLS BASKETBALL RANKINGS:Top 10 high school girls basketball teams in Alexandria area for week of Jan. 31

GIRLS BASKETBALL WATCH LIST:Meet the Rapides Parish, Alexandria area girls basketball Super Six entering district play

BEST IS YET TO COME IN THE SWAMP:Why Northwood girls basketball is heading in right direction despite title game loss

Battles, Allen, Williams and Perry all scored in double figures in a 78-47 win over Avoyelles on Jan. 7.

“We have some good chemistry and I feel like we jell together,” Allen said. “Even though it’s already strong, it’s getting way better.

“We learned that not one person has to have the ball (at all times), but everybody has to have the ball for us to succeed.”

Unlike last season, when the Lady Gators burst onto the scene en route to making the state championship game, they are one of the overwhelming favorites this season to win Class 1A — currently leading in the power ratings by nearly eight points thanks to a challenging nondistrict schedule.

Northwood High SchoolÕs Elondra Williams (14) shoots two against St. Mary Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. Northwood won 54-18.

Northwood is cruising through district play and winning by an average of 40 points.

Part of that focus comes from how last season ended, as Northwood squandered a 15-point first quarter lead before losing to East Iberville in the Class 1A championship game.

A day after the loss, the girls were already looking forward to the 2021-22 season — determined to not let that heartbreak happen again.

“They hold each other accountable at all times,” Cooper said. “There’s no slacking in practice and they’re making each other feel uncomfortable. They’re all locked in. It’s very surprising, but at the same time, it makes me feel really good.”

“Our biggest lesson that we learned was calming down (during the game),” Perry said. “We learned to not have to be so fast all of the time and focusing on the different steps of the game.”

After coming close to a title, the Lady Gators realize their goal championship or bust this season.

“It would be the icing on the cake,” Perry said. “We’ve been trying for years and (a state title) would mean that we finally reached our goal.”