There may have been no jewelry on the line for Thursday night’s Class 5A quarterfinal playoff game between Mount Carmel and Destrehan, and no trophy made of silver or gold.
But you never would have known that by the way these two teams played each other. Defending state champion Mount Carmel and Destrehan, the team the Cubs beat to win last year’s title, played hard against each other for 36 minutes, tied at 75 after the regulation 32.
But Destrehan, with vengeance on its mind, prevailed with a 90-85 win in overtime to earn its second consecutive trip to the LHSAA Girls Top 28 Tournament.
“It was epic,” Destrehan coach Angi Butler said. “You know, it’s funny. I’ve been up since 3 (a.m.) and I knew, I told the girls (Thursday), we’re going to win. It’s going to be close. It’s going to be hard. You’re going to have to play ball. You’re going to have to dig deeper than you’ve ever had to dig. But this is a state championship for you. But you’re going to win it.”
The Wildcats (29-2), the No. 4 seed in the bracket, will play the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 1 Ponchatoula and No. 8 Sam Houston at 4:30 p.m. next Thursday at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles. Mount Carmel finished its season 22-9.
But seedings and records were meaningless Thursday. Both teams wanted to win — one for pride, one for revenge. And it showed as eight players hit double figures and, between them, the teams hit 10 3-pointers.
Destrehan sophomore Cara Ursin led all scorers with 34 points, including three 3-pointers. Brandi Mason scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Jasmine Morris and Jerlicia Morris both finished with 13 points with three 3-pointers between them. Taylor Daigs scored one goal — a 3-pointer.
Mount Carmel saw four players reach double figures. Paige Franckiewicz led the Cubs with 24 points and six 3-pointers. Kristen Nuss scored 21 points, as did senior Taylor Berry. Berry hit five 3-pointers in the game, but none of them was bigger than the buzzer-beater that tied the game at 75 and sent the game into overtime.
With 22 seconds remaining in regulation, Destrehan led 75-69. All the Wildcats needed to do was slow the game down from its furious pace and victory was almost assured. But the Cubs would have none of that. With 9 seconds remaining, Franckiewicz took the ball after a missed layup by Ursin and hit her sixth 3-pointer.
That cut Destrehan’s lead to 75-72. Then Destrehan’s Jasmine Morris was called for stepping over the line on her inbounds pass, giving the ball back to the Cubs with the clock ticking. Despite a block by Jasmine Morris, the ball went back to the Cubs, who put it into the hands of Berry, who sent a soaring 3-pointer into the goal as time expired.
In overtime, Destrehan let Mount Carmel take three four-point leads before regaining control. Jasmine Morris’ 3-pointer with 1:11 remaining was the turning point, cutting the Cubs lead to 83-82.
The Cubs couldn’t answer and Kiki Kenner was fouled while fighting for the rebound. Her second free throw put Destrehan ahead 84-83 with 58 seconds to play. After that it was the free throw line that saved the Wildcats lead. They made 6 of 8 over the final 40 seconds. Mount Carmel managed only a pair of inside layups.
After the game, the Wildcats did a Second Line to the goal and took turns snipping the net.
“Not only did we beat them, we’ve got another chance at (the championship,” Ursin said. “And these players deserve a ring, as well as my coaches. They all work so hard.”
The Cubs players were inconsolable as they accepted hugs from family and friends. None was more distraught than Berry, who threw herself into the arms of her mother, assistant coach Stacy Berry, after fouling out in the final seconds of overtime.
“We knew this was going to be a war,” Mount Carmel coach Kevin McGlathery said. “That’s what this team gave me all year. We set our goals high. We fell a little bit short, but I’m absolutely proud of them.”