Champions of the Court and Classroom

Kenny Henderson

Basketball fans statewide celebrated the conclusion of the LHSAA girls’ basketball playoffs with the Ladies’ Top 28 Tournament at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond on March 5. Each of the seven LHSAA divisions crowned a champion after the semifinal and final playoff rounds.

These seven champions, along with the rest of the schools participating in girls’ basketball, displayed remarkable competitiveness and athleticism throughout the regular season and the playoffs. Fans took notice, with more than 19,000 in attendance for the Ladies’ Top 28 Tournament, an increase from last season. These fans should know that they were witness not only to stellar play on the basketball court, but admirable dedication on the part of many of Louisiana’s brightest student-athletes.

Among the standouts of the tournament were Tashana Triplett, a guard on the Winnfield Lady Tigers’ Class 2A championship squad, and Shaylin Riley of the Class 4A-champion Jennings Lady Bulldogs. These two young women were named Most Valuable Player in their respective championship games.

Triplett, who scored 24 points to go with seven rebounds and three 3-point field goals to help lead Winnfield to its first championship in 47 years, had a strong season. She shot 45 percent from the field, netted nearly 12 points per game and averaged more than two steals, assists and rebounds per game, according to  Riley helped Jennings secure its first state championship in 22 years with a double-double effort, scoring 18 points and tallying 11 rebounds as the Lady Bulldogs prevailed over previously-undefeated Bastrop High School. She hit four consecutive critical free throws in the waning moments of the game to help seal the victory.

In addition to their on-court accolades, Triplett and Riley have also excelled in the classroom. Triplett is the valedictorian of Winnfield High School’s graduating class, and she and Riley have both been named to the 2010-2011 LHSAA Academic All-State Composite Team with a 4.0 GPA. The LHSAA Academic All-State program recognizes senior student-athletes who have maintained a cumulative 3.5 GPA or better over their four-year career. The LHSAA currently recognizes All-Academic excellence in 14 of its 25 sports with plans to add the remaining sports in the 2011-12 school year.

Student-athletes are nominated for Academic All-State according to GPA, and all student-athletes achieving the 3.5 GPA mark or better are automatically named to the Academic All-State Class/Division Teams. The Academic All-State Composite teams comprise the highest grade point averages as per composition for each sport.

Triplett, Riley and the other members of the All-State Composite Team, as well as the Class/Division honorees, epitomize what it means to be a student-athlete. To juggle athletic responsibilities, including travel, practice and preparation, along with maintaining levels of excellence in the classroom, is not a small feat. These girls and their Academic All-State counterparts have exhibited tremendous potential for success in life and leadership skills at such an early age. The LHSAA honors and commends these remarkable student-athletes.