Grant and Buckeye looking for redemption heading into the semifinal round
CENTRAL LOUISIANA, La (KALB) - In Class 3A, there are two teams heading to Sulphur for the high school softball semifinal round - the Buckeye Panthers and the Grant Cougars.
Grant was here last year as the number one seed, but got bounced out by Iowa losing, 11-5. The Cougars had a young roster last year and Head Coach Stephen Ray feels this team is much more prepared now than a year ago.
“I feel like I’m more prepared mentally than last year,” said Ray. “We rolled through the playoffs scoring a lot of runs, but we really didn’t have a tight game. This year we had close games back-to-back and I think it prepared us mentally better.”
For Buckeye, their season ended last year in the regional round when they were upset by the 12th seeded Iota. This year, the Panthers have upset a few teams along the way including the number two seed Lutcher. Head Coach Justin Kess shared that getting back here is a moment that they will cherish.
“It feels good and we are excited,” said Kees. “The community is excited. We had a huge turnout the last round - probably more people in Lutcher than they had. It was outstanding. These players are ready to make history.”
Both schools know that getting to Sulphur isn’t the goal - it’s coming home with the trophy. Both teams said this time around, they felt that they need to have one thing on their mind entering the postseason this year.
“Redemption - I feel like last year that wasn’t our team,” said Taylor Lasyone. That’s not how we usually play, so I feel like this year we are ready and more prepared and know what to expect.”
“This year we actually picked a word to define our whole season and it was redemption,” said Olivia Henry. “Before every single game this year we said it to one another, because it was a way to remind us of last year and how we won’t let that happen again.”
A victory for Buckeye would send them to their first championship game since 2019, where they fell short to West Ouachita in Class 4A. For Grant, they are looking to head back to the big dance for the first time since 1994 when they won their only state title.
Neither team is taking this moment for granted.
“Every game we just talk about playing for God, playing it for each other, and playing for our community.” said Henry. “I think we will just make everyone so proud if we can win the championship.”
“We won a state championship in 1994 and haven’t been back to the finals since,” said Ray. “Last year was the first time we’ve been back to the semifinals since we win it all. So I would love to get to the finals and have a shot at that championship.”
Buckeye will be taking on Sterlington this Friday, April 29 at 12 p.m. Then, just a few hours later at 4 p.m., Grant will play Iowa. A win for both teams would take them to the final round.
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