DENHAM SPRINGS — Higher stakes surely await a University High basketball team that has won the past two Class 3A state titles.

But after the Cubs handled Mandeville 66-29 in the championship game of the Grady Hornsby Tournament on Wednesday night at Denham Springs High, coach Joe Spencer said the plaque his team took home for winning the annual Thanksgiving break tournament is one U-High won’t take for granted.

“It’s an honor to be in these tournaments and to be able to compete,” Spencer said. “There was a time when we hoped to get in these tournaments, and to be able to get in them and compete really well and win them every so often is really big for us. Historically, these are great tournaments. This was another great one this year.”

The clear favorite entering this three-day, eight-team event at DSHS’ Hornsby Gym, U-High did not disappoint.

The Cubs (4-0) beat Terrebonne by 35 points and Lutcher by 16 before taking on a Mandeville team that had advanced to the championship game with wins over St. Michael and Denham.

The Skippers (2-3) quickly found themselves in a 15-0 hole against U-High and never recovered.

LSU signee Wayde Sims led the Cubs with 20 points and sophomore point guard Spencer Mays followed with 12. Ten players for U-High got in the scoring column.

Eric Degelos, who had 15 points Tuesday in the win over Denham, scored 10 against U-High but was the only Skipper in double figures.

With the Mandeville football team playing in the Class 5A quarterfinals this week, coach Paul Paille said the Skippers are still waiting on four players who will join the team when football finishes.

“We’re going to be a different-looking team after Christmas,” Paille said. “We’ve just got to keep getting better. We watch the film, we take notes, and we get better. That’s all we can do.”

Paille said he knew it would be an uphill battle against the talented Cubs but hoped his team could stay “within 10 or 15 points” down the stretch and have a chance at the end.

But the Skippers were in catch-up mode nearly from the opening tip.

Sims sent home an alley-oop dunk on a pass from John Jones at the top of the key on the game’s first possession. Two more Sims baskets made it 6-0 less than two minutes in.

Jones made it 18-2 at the 2:36 mark when he connected on a 3-pointer for the last of his eight first-quarter points.

The Cubs led 22-8 at the end of the first quarter and 38-15 at the half.

Spencer said U-High’s fast start was fueled by a defense that remained poised against Mandeville’s methodical offensive approach.

“We knew they were very patient on offense, and we were going to have to play really good defense,” Spencer said. “I thought our defense was the best it has been all year in terms of taking away what they want to do and finishing possessions.”