LAKE CHARLES — It appeared to be one of those fights-to-the-finish in the making. Top-seeded Ponchatoula used its fourth-quarter free throw shooting to finish off No. 4 Destrehan.
The Green Wave made 12 of 16 from the free-throw line in the final period to notch a 47-41 victory over Destrehan in the first Class 5A semifinal game played at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament Thursday.
Arianna Hamilton, who finished with a game-high 21 points, made four free throws in the final minute to propel Ponchatoula to a girls basketball title game for the first time since 1977.
Hamilton was 7 of 13 from the floor. Jyar Francis added 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for PHS (31-3) in the game played at Burton Coliseum.
Krysten Kenner led Destrehan (26-3) with 15 points. Ponchatoula limited DHS sophomore standout Cara Ursin to just seven points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field.
Ponchatoula led by five points at halftime. A layup by Kenner gave Destrehan a 34-33 lead with 4:32 left in the game. Two free throws by Hamilton at the 4:02 mark gave Ponchatoula the lead for good.
NORTH CADDO 59, ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 57: Seventh-seeded NCHS (23-11) withstood some key miscues in the final seconds to earn a shot at its second straight state title. The Rebels play Pickering in the final at 4 p.m. Saturday.
St. Thomas Aquinas had a three opportunities to score while trailing by two in the final 15 seconds after North Caddo turned the ball over. But the Falcons turned the ball over on those possessions.
Sumer Williams had 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Keyarrea Easter had 17 points and 13 rebounds and Jasmine Thomas added 16 points. Regan Bolton tallied a game-high 26 points for STA (25-9).
The two teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the second half until, with the game tied at 48, North Caddo’s Thomas made a three-point play with 3:08 remaining that put the Rebels ahead for good.
WARREN EASTON 47, CABRINI 39: Easton (32-1), the No. 1 seed, made it back to the championship game by pulling away from No. 5 Cabrini (27-6) in the second half.
Easton will play No. 2 Salmen at 6 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of last year’s title game. It will be the fourth meeting of the season between the Eagles and Spartans, with Easton having won two of the three. Salmen has won the past two 4A titles.
Kechelle Figueroa and Shaniqua Tobias scored 13 points apiece to lead WEHS.
Figueroa, a junior guard, scored all of her points in the second half. Rakell Spencer scored a game-high 24 points and was the only double-figures scorer for Cabrini.
The game was tied at 21 at halftime, but Easton started the third quarter on an 8-0 run and outscored Cabrini 14-7 in the quarter.
Cabrini went the almost the entire third quarter without a field goal. Spencer ended the drought with a bucket in the lane with 33.1 seconds left in the quarter. By that time Easton had built a 35-27 lead.
SALMEN 66, KARR 57: Guards Tiara Warren and Arianna Cooks combined for 37 points, including six 3-pointers to lead second-seeded Salmen past No. 3 Karr.
Warren made 7 of 13 shots from the floor, including four 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 19 points for two-time defending 4A champion Salmen.
Cooks added 18 points on 6 for 14 shooting with two 3-pointers.
Baylor singee Kalani Brown scored 12 second-half points and finished with 16 points and also had a game-high 11 rebounds. Destiny Collins led Karr (29-4) with 16 points, while Rehema Franklin (12) also scored in double figures.
Cooks and Warren heated up in the second quarter. A 3-pointer from the right corner by Cooks gave Salmen a 14-12 lead at the 7:05 mark. She added a second 3-pointer 90 seconds later, and Warren made another at the 1:45 mark.
, which extended the Spartan lead to 12 points.
Salmen led led by as much as 16 in the third quarter and 19 in the fourth quarter. Karr battled back to within seven at 60-53 but got no closer.