Mount Carmel’s basketball players had to scurry from the Alario Center on Saturday night and change from uniforms to dresses and heels for the school’s winter formal.
Not even two games Saturday was going to stop this party.
In fact, the Cubs gave themselves another reason to celebrate: the championship in the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic.
Mount Carmel shut down Warren Easton in the second half to claim a 46-37 victory in the title game of the tournament’s platinum bracket.
“Yes, this really gives us something to celebrate,” senior guard Kristen Nuss said.
Mount Carmel trailed 30-20 at halftime but outscored Easton 26-7 in the second half.
“The first half we were really sluggish and all playing like we were tired,” Nuss said. “Our coaches got onto us at halftime. They knew we had to step it up, and we knew we had to step it up.”
They did just that, starting the third quarter on a 9-0 run to get back in it. Ellie Holzman and Megan Donaldson scored all nine points in the run until Easton’s Keira Williams ended the run with a shot in the lane. Mount Carmel took its first lead since the first quarter when Paige Frankiewicz banked in a 3-pointer with two minutes left in the third to put the Cubs ahead 34-32. The Cubs (16-5) never trailed again.
They outscored Karr 18-2 in the third quarter.
Jamie Thomatis, in her first season as Mount Carmel’s coach, wouldn’t take all the credit for the halftime speech that apparently lit a fire into her team.
“It wasn’t just me,” Thomatis said. “Having (assistant) Stacy Berry on the bench helps. She lit into them. We were just so flat. Our energy was so poor. We challenged them. The girls had a gut check moment at halftime, and they responded well to the challenge.”
Nuss was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. She was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Donaldson, who scored a team-high 13 points, and Frankiewicz (five points). Freshman Holzman had 11 points to help the Cubs avenge a 59-53 loss earlier this season to the Eagles.
“I knew Mount Carmel would have some intensity because we beat them earlier,” Easton coach Darius Mimms said. “We came out and laid an egg in the second half.”
It was the second straight season Easton, the reigning Class 4A state champions, lost in the title game of the Sugar Bowl tournament. They fell to Salmen last season in the tournament’s championship.
In the first half, Easton looked well on its way to removing the taste of last year’s loss. Kechelle Figueroa started on fire, nailing four 3-pointers on her way to a 16-point first half.
“We talked about controlling the tempo,” Mimms said. “We were in full control in the first half. The first three minutes of the second half and it was the other way around. We just had no energy. We went to a trapping defense but a trapping defense just doesn’t work if you have no energy.”
Figueroa scored just two points in the second half and finished with a game-high 18. Kalyn Green and Keira Williams scored six points each. Figueroa and Williams also were named to the all-tournament team.
Mount Carmel held all four of its tournament opponents (Ouachita, Madison Prep, Cabrini and Easton) opponents to less than 40 points.
“We do a pretty good bob of guarding the other team’s personnel,” Thomatis said. “… Our girls are tough. Kristen is tough, and our guards feed into that. And whenever you can make big shots, that momentum can switch.”
The other players named to the all-tournament team were: Cara Ursin (Destrehan), Kelsey Pinera (Cabrini), Rakell Spencer (Cabrini), Kierra Brimzy (Natchitoches Central) and Eladriana Payton (Natchitiches Central).