BOSSIER CITY — Friday night, as shots kept flying off the iron, Southwood High School girls basketball coach Steve McDowell recalled last year’s nightmarish Class 5A state championship loss to Lafayette, when they made just nine of 54 shots (16.7 percent) in a loss to Lafayette.
One year later, Southwood began the night 4-of-26 (15.4 percent) from the floor against Denham Springs in a Class 5A semifinal at the CenturyLink Center.
But, the Lady Jackets were even colder.
Southwood (31-1) didn’t let shooting woes affect its play on the defensive end. Aggressive, blanketing pressure forced Denham Springs into an 0-for-12 start from the floor, and led to 44-25 victory and a 16th trip to the state championship game.
“I was proud they just kept fighting through the drought,” said McDowell, coaching just across the Red River from Southwood’s home gym. “Poor Chelsea (Tieuel) kept battling. She’s a much better shooter than she showed tonight (1-for-12). We always talk about, ‘You can have some off offensive nights, but as long as you play tough defense, you can get through it.’
“That’s about the only way you can get through it.”
Jessy Ellis, the Lady Cowboys’ 5-foot-1 senior guard, led all scorers with 16 points while teammate Kourtney Pennywell added 13. Southwood will face Natchitoches Central (27-4) for the 5A championship in Monroe.
A pair of 3-pointers helped Mary Beth Hughes pace Denham Springs (23-6) with six points from off the bench.
Hughes, who didn’t play the first 13 minutes of the game, scored the first field goal for DSHS, a 3-pointer with 2:50 left in the second quarter. It marked the team’s only basket in the first half.
“We just needed to find some success early,” DSHS coach Shelly LaPrarie said. “Hughes kind of gave us a spark there, but we gave them numerous shots.”
Southwood (14-of-47 shooting, 29.8 percent) wasn’t much better from the floor during Friday’s game, but fired off 15 more attempts than Denham Springs in the first 16 minutes.
“They had 31 shots in the first half and 11 offensive boards,” LaPrarie said. “That’s their story.
“They are going to limit you to one (shot) and get multiple shots. That’s what they did tonight.”
Said McDowell: “We’re in the next round; that’s all that counts.”