LAKE CHARLES —Vermilion Catholic guard Ashailee Brailey couldn’t contain her enthusiasm.
“We’re making history man,” Brailey said.
The statement came after Brailey put an exclamation point on Vermilion Catholic’s 57-46 victory over White Castle High in a Class 1A semifinal that capped the first day of action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament.
Brailey finished with a team-high 21 points and 11 rebounds Tuesday night at Burton Coliseum. The 5-foot-7 senior was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, including making 8-of-8 in the second half.
With the win, second-seeded VCHS (26-4) advances to play top-seeded North Central (29-3) in the title game set for 6 p.m. Friday. The Eagles won the 1A title in 2013 and are making history by advancing to the title game for second time in three seasons.
“I think we’re excited to be where we’re at,” VCHS coach Kim Guidry said. “We knew White Castle had those super twins, and we were hoping to slow them down.
“Our kids played hard. We’re coming off the flu. Three of the five starters had it Monday. This was just trying to play 32 minutes as hard as you can.”
Though Guidry chalked up the win to survival, balance and size also played a role. At 6-0, post player Kaylen Collins was at least four inches taller than the tallest player for sixth-seeded White Castle (22-11). Collins altered shots and finished with 17 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Lexi Langlinais provided a 3-pointer dagger from the left corner wth 4:44 remaining that helped halt White Castle’s best fourth-quarter rally. She also finished with 11 points.
Skylar O’Bear scored a game-high 25 points for White Castle. Her twin, Shylar, added 14, including two late 3-pointers. The game was an uphill battle for the Bulldogs, who made just 16.7 percent of their shots from the field in the first half.
The fact that Vermilion Catholic made 14 of 20 second-half free throws also was crucial because White Castle was forced to foul while playing catch-up in the fourth quarter.
“All year, we’ve been able to run and hop on teams early,” WCHS coach Tammy Pierce said. “We’ve been able to take the ball (inside). Tonight, we didn’t execute our offense very well. But overall I’m proud of the girls. They fought to the end.”
The teams exchanged turnovers and missed shots in the opening minutes as they worked out some jitters. WCHS’ Ashante Knight broke the ice by scoring on a layup with 6:12 left in the first quarter.
Vermilion Catholic soon took control. The Eagles scored the 12 of the final 16 points and took a 12-6 lead into the second quarter.
VCHS’ height advantage and poised style made the going tougher for White Castle. The Bulldogs were 5-of-30 from the field. Skylar and Shylar O’Bear were a combined 4-of-23 in the opening half.
It was more of the same early in the third quarter. Vermilion Catholic stretched its lead to 17 points at 32-15 on layup by Collins with 4:58 left.
White Castle scored 13 of the final 17 points in the quarter and cut the VCHS lead to 36-28 after three quarters. The Bulldogs kept whittling away at the VCHS lead by forcing a series of turnovers.
A jumper by Skylar O’Bear cut it to 36-31 with 5:26 remaining. WCHS forced another turnover but couldn’t capitialize.
Collins made one of two free throws. Leah Camel grabbed Collins’ missed free throw and passed to Brailey, who made a jumper from the right corner with 5:06 left. Langlinais’ 3-pointer extended Vermilion Catholic’s lead to 42-31.
“There was like five minutes left in the game,” Brailey said. “We wanted it bad, and it showed.”