LAKE CHARLES - Country Day's quest for a repeat looked promising midway through the fourth quarter Wednesday.
The Cajuns were leading by 10 and seemed well on their way.
But No. 3 Country Day couldn't withstand No. 2 Dunham's defensive pressure late and dropped a 47-46 heartbreaker in the Division III semifinals of the LHSAA boys basketball tournament at Burton Coliseum.
"Give Dunham credit," Country Day coach Mike McGuire said. "Coach Pixley and his guys were hungry and did a good job changing defenses. It got us rattled, and we didn't finish. They were the better team."
Dunham (23-4) advances to Saturday's 2 p.m. all-Baton Rouge area championship game to play No. 4 Episcopal, which stunned top seed Riverside Academy 68-67 in the day's earlier semifinal.
Country Day, seeking its seventh state championship, finished 22-13.
Dunham scored the final eight points, responding to what had been a dominant second half by Country Day up to that point.
Despite that, Country Day had its chances. The Cajuns trailed by one in the final seconds, but Dunham's Jordan Wright blocked a Country Day shot with 13 seconds left then forced a turnover on the final possession to seal the win and avenge the 70-41 loss to Country Day in last year's title game.
Dunham coach Jonathan Pixley didn't let his team forget about last year's game.
"We were as motivated as can be," Pixley said. "Two weeks ago I posted the boxscore from that drubbing they gave us. We wanted to get back to that game. It's a round earlier, but it didn't matter. It was who we were playing and we had to get back and take care of business. They figured it out tonight."
This one, unlike last year's lopsided game, was a game of runs.
Country Day led 18-16 midway through the second quarter before Dunham scored 12 unanswered points to close the half with a 28-18 lead.
The Cajuns stormed back in the third and seemed to be in control. Country Day outscored Dunham 19-8 in the third to take a 37-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The 8-0 run in the third spilled over into the fourth, when the Cajuns scored the first seven points and led 44-36.
"We felt like we could turn the game around with our half-court trap and they started believing in each other and started hitting some shots," McGuire said.
But then the Tigers got going, outscoring the Cajuns 11-2 the rest of the way.
"We got a little rattled," McGuire said. "Their press was effective. We couldn't finish and forced a few shots. ... They didn't give in. We didn't give in. I thought it was a great semifinal game with two tough programs. We got the better of them in the championship, and this year they were hungry."
Country Day's Kaleb Jenkins scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds and three assists.
"We came out and fought hard," Jenkins said. "We knew they were very hungry coming into this game. We just got a little rattled at the end."
Sophomore Justin Ibieta, the quarterback for the Cajuns football team, finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Wright led the Tigers with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Ralph Davenport and Salle Wilson scored 10 points each.
"It was a heckuva ball game," McGuire said. "We didn't play as well for 2½ quarters, but we have a championship- type team and kids don't give in. All year we have been like that. I'm proud of my guys down 14 in the third and they came all the way back but we just couldn't finish."
The Cajuns lose just one senior (Clinton Nicholas) off this year's team.
"We are going to miss him," McGuire said. "We got all these guys back. This program is hungry. We lost four good seniors last year, and we came back. We worked really hard to get back to this game. It was a great year. Getting here was our goal. We got here. We just didn't finish."