Rakell Spencer got off to a slow start Tuesday night, not scoring her first basket until six minutes into the first quarter.
But Spencer eventually got going, finishing with a game-high 24 points as Cabrini outlasted visiting Ursuline Academy in a District 9-4A thriller between two teams ranked in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10.
The Crescents, ranked No. 4 in the Super 10 rankings, improved to 15-7 overall, but more importantly 5-0 and in sole possession of first place in the district.
Spencer made a pair of free throws with 19.7 seconds left to put her team ahead 42-39. Then, after an Ursuline turnover, Cabrini’s Rayven Patin made one of two free throws to seal it on a night free throws were hard to come by.
It didn’t look good early for Cabrini, which trailed 9-3 with 2:20 left in the opening quarter.
Spencer, a Texas A&M signee, scored on a steal and lay-up with 1:24 remaining in the first quarter to finally get started.
“I wasn’t looking good at first, but sometimes I just snap out of it,” Spencer said. “I have to lead the team and put them on my back as the leader, the only senior. If I’m not working magic, it’s a big load on Kelsey (Pinera) so I have to step up so she wouldn’t have to carry it alone.”
Pinera, a junior guard, scored Cabrini’s first five points. She and Spencer combined to score 17 of the Crescents’ 18 first-half points. It included a 10-0 run that quickly turned the 9-3 deficit to a 13-9 lead. Cabrini led 18-14 at the half, but probably shouldn’t have.
Ursuline (18-5, 4-1), ranked No. 9 in the Super 10, made just 2 of 12 free throws in the first half and finished the game 3 of 16 from the line.
“We missed all those free throws in the first half and that’s the difference,” Lions coach Andrea Williams said. “If we make those, we go up at the half up six to eight points. But we feel like those are all correctable things. I love the fact we played hard until the final buzzer.”
Cabrini struggled from the line as well, making just 14 of 30.
“It was not a pretty free throw night,” Cabrini coach Nancy Walsh said. “That’s because both teams were tired and both wanted to win this one so bad.”
Spencer also finished with 11 rebounds, three assists and four steals.
Sophomore Kourtney Weber, one of three sophomore starters in an Ursuline starting lienup that also features a freshman and an eighth-grader, led the Lions with 16 points. Her reverse lay-up late in the third quarter tied the game 31-31 in a quarter. The game was close the rest of the way.
“You’re looking at two of the best players in the city with Courtney and Rakell,” Walsh said. “It’s really hard to score 24 points and defend the best player on the other team. And I give Kourtney credit for scoring 16 hard earned points.”
Cabrini’s Pinera was the game’s only other scorer in double figures with 11 points.
The two teams play again on Feb. 3 at Ursuline.