By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports
Between 2003 and 2013, the Southwood girls’ basketball team was the team to beat in the LHSAA Class 5A state playoffs. In that span, the Lady Cowboys brought home five championships and four runner-up finishes.
Since then, the postseason has been a different story. While the Lady Cowboys made it to the playoffs seven of the last eight years, the only time they made it past the second round was a quarterfinal loss to eventual state runner-up Barbe in 2017.
Don’t think that hasn’t been on the minds of the Southwood faithful.
“We know the legacy of Southwood girls’ basketball and we’re not running from it,” says second-year head coach Kendrick Golatt. “We’ve left a space (for the championship banner). We ask, ‘Who’s going to put up the next one? ’ ”
If Jermesha Frierson has anything to say about it, the latest state championship banner will be hanging in the Southwood gym soon. The 5-foot-6 junior guard scored 12 of her game-high 24 points in overtime to lead the Lady Cowboys past East St. John 63-53 in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs Monday night on the road.
“Once overtime hit,” recalls Frierson, “I told myself I just had to put it in overdrive. We let them come back, but we were not going to let them win.”
That fierce determination is one of the reasons No. 11-seed Southwood (24-10) will meet No. 3 Lafayette (29-4) in the quarterfinals tonight at 6:00 in Lafayette.
“This is the thing about Jermesha,” explains Golatt. “She thinks just like I’m thinking. She sees the court and knows what to do before I tell her. She is a very smart student and that translates to the basketball court. She has a high IQ. And she can score from anywhere on the court.”
While Frierson is listed as both a point guard and shooting guard on the roster, she was moved primarily to the two spot this season. “Last year, she played point,” says Golatt. “But this year we wanted her off the ball. We wanted her moving about the court, not bringing the ball downcourt.”
That strategy has paid off this season as Frierson leads the Lady Cowboys in points (22), rebounds (5) and assists (5) per game.
Jermesha credits much of her success to her father, Jeremy Frierson, who is also on the coaching staff at Southwood.
“I wouldn’t say he was strict, but he taught me what I need to know,” she says of her father. “I’m in strong mental shape. Growing up with a father like mine and this coaching staff is pretty much the same. It’s easy when coach pushes you to be the best you can be. He (my dad) tells me no one can stop me. He knows I know what the right play is.”
Frierson knew what the “right play” was the first time she got a failing grade. “My dad told me you can’t go to college with failing grades,” she says. “I knew I had to do something about it.”
By watching a television show, Frierson thought she might want to go to medical school and become a neurosurgeon. With the same determination she shows on the basketball court, Frierson started watching videos and doing research on neurosurgery.
“I just liked it,” Frierson says of what she learned about neurosurgery.
“I’m already taking some college-level classes and I know I have to keep my grades up,” says Frierson, who holds a 4.8 grade point average.
Until then, however, Frierson will be concentrating on the task at hand. If the Lady Cowboys are able to bring the state championship banner back to the Southwood gym this season, they will first have to defeat a Lafayette team that is riding an 11-game winning streak.
It won’t be the first time these two teams have met, however. In the Walker tournament last year, Southwood took the Lady Lions to overtime before losing.
“Having played them before, we know how aggressive they are,” Frierson says of the Lady Lions. “They have solid guards and very good defensive players. We just need to play our style. Win or lose, all I ask for is effort.”
Photo by HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD