HAMMOND — Top-seeded University High was the team that seemingly started fast all year. But defending Class 2A state champion John Curtis turned the tables on the Cubs.

With sophomore Kolby Morgan scoring a game-high 33 points, including 17 of 21 free throws, fourth-seeded Curtis came away with a 67-59 victory over University in a semifinal girls basketball game that opened Thursday’s action at The Advocate/Louisiana High School Athletic Association Southeast Regional Tournament.

“I thought we started the game off slow and didn’t get into our rhythm like we normally do,” UHS coach Bonita Johnson said. “I thought we didn’t shoot the ball very well, and we gave up too many points in the paint.

“They (the Patriots) pushed the ball down and saw the long court. We kept trying to fight to get back in the game. We’d make a run, and then they’d score a point. We needed to stop them defensively, and we didn’t do that.”

Morgan, who made 7-of-20 from the field, scored 22 second-half points, 19 of which came after she picked up her fourth personal foul with 4:52 left in the third quarter.

Farryn Wallow added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Patriots, who advance to play the Pickering-St. Thomas Aquinas winner in the 2A title game next week in Monroe. Kelsie Ostriecher also had 10 rebounds for Curtis.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these young ladies,” Curtis coach Barbara Farris said. “We had a good game plan. We were familiar with them (the Cubs) and had gotten a lot of video on them.

“We knew Di’Mond Jackson was going to be the catalyst for them doing a lot of different things. We knew they were going to push the tempo and rip and run. Our plan was to withstand their press, make sure we took care of the ball and push it ourselves when we had the chance.”

Jackson, who finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, was the lone double-figures scorer for U-High. Marygrace Constantin and Terriel Ross each had eight for the Cubs (30-7).

Shooting woes were a key issue for the Cubs, who lost to Curtis in the semifinals for the second straight year.

UHS made just 22-of-60 from the field for 36.7 percent and was 0-of-17 on 3-pointers.

U-High managed to cut it to five points several times, including twice in the fourth quarter. But Curtis made 26 of 31 free throws, some of which iced the game.

“At first, we had to slow it down and break their press,” Morgan said. “We got a little excited, but we pulled through. I give it all to my teammates. They gave me the ball when I needed it.”

Curtis scored the first four points and built their lead to seven points, at 16-9 after one quarter. The Patriots pushed their lead to double figures in the second quarter. A jumper by Morgan made it 22-11 with 5:44 left in the half.

U-High got within five, but Morgan and company upped the lead back to us as nine before settling for a 31-24 halftime lead.

Morgan provided an early third-quarter spark with a 3-pointer that increased Curtis’ lead to 10 points. The Pats led by as much as 12 before UHS again cut the lead to five at 36-31 on a layup by Constantin with 4:50 remaining.

“We talked about trying to take a charge (on Morgan),” Johnson said. “We had a couple of attempts that failed.”

Curtis extended the lead to 13 points before taking a 48-37 lead into the fourth quarter. A jumper by Jackson got UHS within five at 52-47 with 4:51 remaining. The teams traded baskets before Curtis put the game away by extending its lead methodically, scoring two to four points at a time.

“It was a battle,” Jackson said. “With us trading baskets we were never able to make up that extra ground we needed to make up.”