HAMMOND — In the most important game in school history, Northlake Christian got a highlight performance from arguably the best player in its history.
Freshman guard Kyren Whittington had 37 points, nine rebounds, six steals and three blocks as the top-seeded Lady Wolverines defeated third-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas 52-46 in the Division III championship game of the LHSAA girls state tournament Friday night at Southeastern Louisiana's University Center in Hammond.
“Our game plan coming in was to try and match STA’s intensity and just to play good fundamental basketball,” Northlake Christian coach Aaron Agresta said. “We didn’t exactly do that as well as I would have liked, but we did it well enough.”
Leading for the entire first half, Northlake Christian (23-5) opened the game on an 11-4 run. Whittington was the story of the first half, scoring 17 of the Wolverines 27 points, grabbing three rebounds, making four steals and blocking two shots.
“I just did what I had to do to help us win,” Whittington said. “I’m just happy that we were able to come out on top.”
Whittington’s freshman backcourt mate, Natalie Newberry said it was just a fun game all around.
“Kyren obviously had a phenomenal game,” Newberry said. “When Kyren Whittington is on, you do whatever you need to do to get her the basketball. She is going to get the job done. That’s what we did.”
Despite Whittington’s impressive stat line in the first half, Northlake Christian led only 27-26 at halftime.
STA (23-10) responded by scoring the first 14 points of the third quarter to grab a 40-30 advantage with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter.
However, the Wolverines responded with a 17-0 run that went to the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, giving them a 47-40 lead. Whittington scored 16 of the 17 points in the decisive run.
“A lot of teams would have said we can’t come back from (the 40-30 deficit),” Agresta said. “There was a point where I thought they might do that. Fortunately, for us, they came out of it. I was extremely proud of them. Kyren had one heck of a basketball game. She picked the state championship to have a career-high in points. Talk about good timing.”
Newberry finished with seven points and seven rebounds to assist the Wolverines and Kaitlyn walker had four points and nine rebounds.
STA was led by Kayla Keller, who had 15 points and five rebounds, and Jordan Strahan added 12 points and 10 rebounds.