HAMMOND — Defending champion Lacassine came in with a No. 18 national ranking from USA Today and a 34-0 record. Yes, the Cardinals had the accolades.
But fourth-seeded Holden got the victory, upsetting top-seeded Lacassine 66-54 in a Class B semifinal that helped open the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament Wednesday.
“I knew it was possible,” Holden coach Pam Forbes said of the upset. “When we came back (to coaching three years ago), they were babies. We spent a lot of time on the little bitty things a lot of coaches probably wouldn’t have.
“There were times when we lost our composure. But I said the other day that our defense has been the thing, and it was again today. It’s not over. Now, we’ve got Florien, and they’ll be ready.”
The fourth-seeded Rockets (25-6) advance to play No. 3 Florien (37-4) in the Class B title game set for 6 p.m. Friday at Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center. It is Holden’s first title-game appearance since winning Class B in 2006.
Though the game amounted to 32 minutes, the route to the upset started when Forbes and her husband/defensive coordinator-assistant coach Craig got back into coaching. The Rockets progressively got better each year and reached the quarterfinals a couple of times.
In November, Forbes played Lacassine twice, losing by three points and seven points. So the third time truly was the charm. Kaylee Hughes scored a team-high 18 points, and Sydney Hayden added 17 points and eight rebounds. Kaitlyn Kropog added 15.
Those totals helped offset a game-high 27 points and 20 rebounds by Lacassine’s Madyson Brasseaux. Lindsey Priola had 11, but Priola and Haley Cooley were held below their scoring averages. Lacassine shot 36.5 percent from the field, compared to 46.8 for Holden.
Hughes made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:27 to help put the game away. The Rockets were 12 of 15 from the free-throw line in the second half.
“I give Holden all the credit because they played a great game,” Lacassine coach Jeremy Hollier said. “They played well the first two times we played them in November, and hats off to them.”
Holden displayed poise from the beginning. Lacassine led by as much as five points in the first quarter. The Rockets closed with a 6-0 run and led 16-14 going into the second quarter, thanks to a basket and free throw by Jaycee Hughes. A 17-11 second-quarter surge gave Holden a 33-25 halftime lead.
The Rockets pushed their lead to double digits again in the third quarter. When Lacassine threatened, cutting the score to 40-38 with 2:53 left, Kropog made three straight baskets, sending HHS into the final quarter with a 48-41 lead.
“It’s amazing that we finally beat them,” Kropog said. “This is the third time we’ve played them. It’s been a nail-biter every game.”