Henderson, Parkway eager for today’s semifinal

HUSTLING HENDERSON: Parkway junior Ty’Lissa Henderson (11) will be all over the court today in the state semifinals.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

When she was in sixth grade, Ty’Lissa Henderson would spend a lot of time in the school gymnasium. Instead of playing basketball, however, she was just watching.

“I was told I couldn’t play because of my behavior,” recalls the Parkway junior. “That changed when I went back to Rusheon (Middle School). It all started with Coach Harmon.”

When asked about her behavior, Henderson just says, “I was bad.”

With guidance and a lot of hard work, Henderson overcame that behavior and is now one of the reasons the Parkway Lady Panthers find themselves in the Final Four of the LHSAA girls’ basketball state championships for the first time in 13 years.

No. 2 seed Parkway (32-2) takes on No. 3 Lafayette (29-4) in the semifinals of the Class 5A playoffs today at the University Center in Hammond. The Lady Panthers play the first 5A semi at 5:00 followed by No. 1 seed Walker and Ponchatoula meeting in the other semifinal.

The last time Parkway advanced this far in the playoffs was in 2008, when the Lady Panthers fell to eventual runner-up Ellender in the semifinals of the Class 4A championship.

Parkway is familiar with today’s opponent, having defeated Lafayette 44-38 earlier this season.

“They’re very aggressive,” Parkway coach Gloria Williams says of the Lady Lions. “I expect it to be similar (to the December matchup), but with the added intensity of the game. Like any playoff game, there is more pressure. The expectations are the same (as the regular season) but the kids are competing at a higher level.”

While Parkway is led by 6-0 junior guard Mikaylah Williams, the nation’s top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2023 with 22.6 points per game, the Lady Panthers have been able to count on a strong cast of players.

“Chloe (Larry), Ty’Lissa, Makenna (Miles), Savannah (Wilson), “JJ” (Jayla James),” coach Williams says when asked about Parkway’s depth. “And (Aniya) Russell has been big on the inside. She’s given us lots of minutes.”

Following a first-round victory over Acadiana, in which Mikaylah Williams had a game-high 22 points, the Parkway coach praised Wilson for “stepping up,” Larry for doing “what she usually does” (score), and Henderson for being “all over the floor.”

Actually, the coach praised “Lucy” for being all over the floor.

“My granny always called me that,” Henderson says about her nickname. “‘Lucy’ just stuck with me.”

Henderson’s play has been crucial for the Lady Panthers whether she is playing guard or forward. “She’s going to run the floor and defend,” says coach Williams. “She’s a rebounder and she’s competitive.”

That competitive drive is what Henderson uses to keep everything – and everyone – in the right place.

“If it’s not going good, if someone including me is in the wrong spot, I tell them to get in the right spot,” says Henderson. “It’s all about communication. Basically, we just do our own thing as long as the communication is good.”

That communication will be key when the Lady Panthers take on the Lady Lions in what should be an exciting matchup today.

“We know they’re gonna press us,” she says. “We just have to play hard and keep our composure.”

Photo by JOHN PENROD