HAMMOND — Make a little more room in the Mount Carmel trophy case.
The Cubs brought yet another championship to Milne Boulevard on Friday night, the school’s third this academic year.
This time it was a girls’ basketball trophy.
Mount Carmel, a No. 2 seed, led from start to finish and beat No. 3 Denham Springs 59-48 in the Class 5A championship game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Top 28 Tournament at Southeastern Louisiana.
“It’s so surreal,” said senior guard Megan Donaldson. “I don’t think it has hit me yet.”
The title gave the school its third state championship in the last four months after winning a volleyball title in November and a soccer title last week.
“It’s been quite a year,” said first-year coach Jamie Thomatis. “I had a lot of expectations coming in just knowing the talent at Mount Carmel, but not knowing how we would adjust to the new coach, the third coach in three years.”
They adjusted just fine, hitting their stride in January. Mount Carmel (29-6) finished the season on an 11-game winning streak and won 19 of their last 20 games.
It was Mount Carmel’s second basketball title, coming just two years after winning their first one in Lake Charles.
Senior point guard Kristen Nuss led the Cubs with 20 points.
“We wanted to throw the first punch,” said Nuss. “All year we have wanted to throw the first punch and if they throw back we want to be able to handle it.”
Nuss also dished out nine assists to go with her three steals and three rebounds. She was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.
Nuss scored half of her points in the fourth quarter, putting the game out of reach by making six straight free throws to close it out.
Donaldson was on fire from beyond the arc, going 6 of 11 on 3-pointers and finishing with 18 points.
“Mount Carmel is a great team,” said Denham Springs coach Shelly Laprairie. “We knew that coming in. They are great shooters. They are smart and do an outstanding job with their offenses. They make you pay for every mistake you make. They came out on us hot and then we were able to settle down.”
Lauren Bodino finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Cubs. Freshman Ellie Holman had 11 rebounds.
The Cubs took a 43-27 lead into the final quarter when Donaldson buried a 3-pointer from the corner.
It was their largest lead of the game and they weren’t about to let it slip away, despite some late nifty long-range shooting from Denham Springs guard Caroline Taylor.
Taylor buried a couple 3-pointers midway through the final quarter to cut it to 49-40, but MCA always had an answer. Donaldson responded again, draining a 3-pointer that quieted the noisy Yellow Jackets student section that was trying to help its team rally.
“It just goes back to the pass,” said Donaldson about the shot. “I just so happened to make the shot. It’s not anything spectacular.”
Denham Springs, seeking its first state title since 1996, finished 30-4. The Yellow Jackets had won 24 of their last 25 games.
Unlike in the semifinals when Mount Carmel trailed at the half against Natchitoches Central and used an incredible 30-1 run to win, they jumped out early in this one.
They led 7-0 early on three straight baskets by Lauren Bodino, Donaldson and Paige Franckiewicz. Holzman and Nuss scored the next two baskets to give MCA an 11-5 lead.
The Cubs shot a scorching 50 percent in the first half to lead 34-23 at the break.
The win also kept the city of New Orleans’ streak alive.
It is the fifth consecutive year that at least one team from the greater New Orleans area has claimed a state title in girls basketball.
John Curtis started the streak in 2012. Salmen won it in 2013, then won again in 2014 along with Mount Carmel. Warren Easton continued the streak a year ago and MCA kept it going Friday.
“The girls have been on quite a journey,” Thomatis said. “I’m very pleased and very proud.”