LAFAYETTE — Urusline Academy coach Andrea Williams said she knew her size advantage over St. Thomas More was something she wanted to exploit Thursday night.
Freshman Kennedi Jackson and sophomore Kourtney Weber shut down the lane with nine blocks between them. Weber had a game-high 23 points, and Brooklyn Mitchell added 22 as Ursuline upset the top-seeded Cougars 59-55.
“Our defense turned into our offense tonight,” Williams said. “We started getting those turnovers and that was huge for us. I told them at the beginning that we needed to use our size to our advantage. I knew they were small.”
STM’s Bailey Hemphill finished with 16 points, but she got into early foul trouble in the first half, forcing her to sit the final 4:19 of the half. Her absence allowed Ursuline to open a 28-19 halftime lead.
“I felt like we needed to stop (Hemphill),” Williams said. “She’s the heart of the team. She plays hard and does it all for them. When she got in foul trouble, that was a key, but they made a run. I told our team they would make a run. We sustained the lead and made a run when we needed to at the end.”
STM came out of halftime on a 13-2 run to take a 32-30 lead midway through the third quarter. Cougars coach Stephen Strojny said his team never stopped believing they could win, and he said he knew the perimeter game was their chance to win the game.
“I felt like if we could get hot from the perimeter, we had a chance,” Strojny said. “We were getting nothing on the interior. Their interior defense was great. They were letting (Jackson) play physical, and she was blocking shots. We were either going to come back and figure out a way to keep it close, or we would get blown out. Low and behold, it put is right back in the game.”
STM held a 43-40 advantage going into the fourth quarter, but Ursuline began a 9-2 run in the fourth to take the lead and never relinquished it. Williams said her young team is talented and handling STM’s press defense was something they came in used to.
“We were able to handle that pressure because we are used to playing that pressure with teams like Warren Easton and Karr,” Williams said. “We face that all year long, so that wasn’t something that was new. We knew we would be prepared for what they would show us, and St. Thomas More was a great team that never gave up. But it came down to who wanted it more.”