Two days after a 12-hour round trip for a regional victory at Plain Dealing, Vermilion Catholic was back home with one of preparation for their Class 1A state quarterfinal against a rested and deep No. 7 St. Mary’s of Natchitoches club.
Spurred by a third-quarter surge, No. 2 Vermilion Catholic relied on the scoring of guard Ashailee Brailey and a suffocating defense that resulted in a 41-30 victory before an overflow crowd.
“They instill that in us. We always play 32 minutes,” Brailey said. “That’s what helped us.”
There’s no rest for the weary with Vermilion Catholic (24-4) set to face No. 6 White Castle in the Top 28 tournament at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles, at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.
“We talked about having to do the little things right,” VC coach Kim Guidry said. “We knew they would come in well coached, with 12 players that could play with a great post (Shelby Bishop). I asked them if we were ready for that challenge? They answered it, I thought.”
Brailey scored 13 of her game-high 21 points during a nine-minute stretch of the first half with center Kaylen Collins and guard Lexie Langlinais adding nine apiece.
In order to try and combat St. Mary’s depth and full-court pressure, Guidry said her team made a concerted effort to go inside to Collins to draw fouls and stop the clock when necessary.
She also utilized some of her second-half timeouts more for a brief respite than for strategy.
“We were getting tired, so that stopped the clock. I used a few more timeouts in the second half just to give their legs a rest and get some hydration to finish the game,” she said.
After finishing the first half on a 9-4 run that resulted in a 25-20 halftime lead, VC opened with a 7-2 spurt with Langlinais making a 3-pointer from the wing, Collins adding a putback and Brailey another basket to make it 32-22 with 3:34 remaining.
Brailey’s basket was a direct result of VC’s hustle with Collins claiming a loose ball on the floor and assisting in the made field goal. Langlinais’ 3-pointer was set up by Leah Camel’s diving effort on the floor that led to a steal.
VC extended its lead to 37-23 after three quarters when Collins scored on another putback and dropped in a pair of free throws in the last two minutes of the quarter.
St. Mary’s (23-7) got to within 37-27 on a four-point play from Mazie Dubois, who knocked down a 3-pointer and made the subsequent free throw with 6:34 remaining.
VC never allowed its lead to dip below double digits, limiting St. Mary’s to 27 percent shooting and forcing 22 turnovers.
The Eagles missed all eight of their fourth-quarter shots but shortened the game by dribbling time off the clock on Brailey’s two free throws with 1:55 to play that also produced VC’s final points.
“In the second half, the ball started really bouncing their way,” said St. Mary coach Johnny Cox, whose team had a 14-game win streak snapped. “They outhustled us during that stretch so they created that. VC deserves a lot of credit. They all played hard and played well together. They deserve it.”