ALEXANDRIA — McKinley drove a long distance for its Division I semifinal game. The Panthers proved they could shoot it from long distance, too, in a 61-33 victory over third-seeded Dominican.
Alexius Horne scored a game-high 19 points, making 5 of 7 3-pointers to lead a balanced attack for second-seeded McKinley (30-3). Horne made three of those 3-pointers in the first 90 seconds of the game to help her team race out to an 11-0 lead.
“We knew they had two or three really good players, but in the games we saw, I’ve never seen them shoot that well,” Dominican coach Ryan Reuter said. “If they’re shooting like that, anybody is going to have a hard time beating them.”
The Panthers made 10 of their 22 shots from beyond the arc in the game that helped open the LHSAA girls basketball tournament Thursday. With the win, McKinley advances to play top-seeded John Curtis (29-1) in the title game set for 4 p.m. Saturday at the Rapides Parish Coliseum.
McKinley lost to Curtis 43-36 in the title game a year ago but turned the tables, handing the Patriots their lone loss (44-43) in a Dec. 1 tournament game. Curtis beat Evangel Christian 74-37 in its Thursday semifinal.
“Our girls did an excellent job,” interim McKinley coach Bridget Bowman said. “We came into the game with a mindset to go back to the championship game and do what we didn’t do last year. Our girls executed well in the first quarter and the first half. We came out a little flat in the third quarter but finished strong in the fourth quarter.”
Horne’s hot-shooting start put Dominican (24-8) in a hole it could never get out of. She scored 14 of her points in the first half. The Panthers led 26-8 at the first quarter.
Caira Wren added 13 points and Erica Lafayette had 11 for McKinley. No player scored in double figures for Dominican, which got eight points from Emily Adams and seven points each from Sydney Sherman and Kate Baker.
“I was hyped up with my team and we all wanted to come out and blow them out in the first half,” Horne said.
Dominican cut into the McKinley lead slightly by outscoring the Panthers 11-7 in the third quarter. But MHS closed it out with a 14-6 fourth-quarter tally, all without foward Curtis.
“It took a piece of us last year,” Wrenn said of the title-game loss a year ago. “We wanted to come back stronger.”