University High turned back an early Marksville run and took another step toward defending their Class 3A state title with a 73-51 win over the Tigers in a quarterfinal game at U-High’s McKernan-Pennington Gym on Saturday.
After U-High (30-2) opened with a 13-4 lead, the Tigers, behind freshman guard Teeona Barkley, went on a 10-6 run to go ahead 22-19 with six minutes left in the first half. The lead was short-lived, though, and the Cubs outscored Marksville 21-5 for the rest of the half and never led by fewer than 11 the rest of the way.
U-High moves on to a semifinal game against Jewel Sumner at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Top 28 state tournament at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“We’d scouted Marksville, and knew they are a fairly young team that will keep the pressure on you,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “You have to keep your head up and throw over the pressure and not dribble too much. We had a run where we turned the ball over, I think like six times in a row.
“We had some subs come in, and we kept the pressure on and I think that helped.
Mikayla Bates had seven points and Alanie Fisher six on two 3-pointers in U-High’s comeback at the end of the first half.
“(Fisher’s) 3s were big for us tonight,” Johnson said. “She’s so confident in her shot now, and she’s playing really well. She has better shot selection, and she’s not rushing her shot like she did in the middle of the season.”
Fisher led the Cubs’ balanced scoring with 14 points, followed by Destiny Ephrom and Kaila Anderson with 13 each and Bates with 10.
Coming in, both teams had given up 48 points in each of their first two playoff games, and the pressure defense they played was evident in the final statistics as U-High committed 23 turnovers and Marksville 20.
“We hoped we might be fast enough, and quick enough, and able to bring more pressure than they’d seen this season,” Marksville coach Heath Lewis said. “We made a good run in the second quarter, but then either the scoreboard got to my girls a little or we just ran out of gas.
“(The Cubs) brought more strength and more intensity in the second half than we were able to match. They’re a good team, and they’re not ranked No. 1 for nothing.”
Barkley had 15 points and Hazel Young finished with 12 to lead the Marksville (22-8).
“She (Barkley) had one of her better games. I thought she was the only one who fought from the tip to the end of the game,” Lewis said.
Now it’s on to Lake Charles for what the LHSAA calls “Marsh Madness.”
“I think we’ve got it, “if we just keep it up. But it’s going to take everybody,” Ephrom said”
Johnson was a little more guarded in her assessment.
“We’re taking it one game at a time. Now we have to get ready for Jewel Sumner quickly. If we can keep up the pressure for 32 minutes, I think it will be beneficial, but there are good teams out there and we’ll have to compete,” she said.