ALEXANDRIA — There are times when the players for St. Katharine Drexel Prep are somewhere in New Orleans and people have no idea who they are or where their school is.
Saturday's results should help change that.
Call them St. Katharine Drexel Prep.
Call them SKDP.
Heck, you can even refer to them by the school's old name of Xavier Prep.
But for now, just call them state champs.
No. 6 SKDP beat rival No. 8 St. Mary's Academy 43-42 on Saturday in a thrilling all-New Orleans Division III championship game in the LHSAA girls tournament at Rapides Coliseum.
For the first time, an LHSAA girls basketball state championship trophy is headed to Magazine Street.
"People didn't know our name," freshman guard Emmia Johnson said. "We had to get it out there. We are still trying to get it out there. More people know it now."
Indeed they do.
Making the victory even sweeter is that it came on March 3, the feast day to observe St. Katharine Drexel Feast Day, who died on that date in 1955.
"It's a special day, a special time," Prep coach Terry Wilson said. "They played us very hard, and they played well. We've been on a mission since the beginning. It was to seal the deal. Like I said the other day, we were meant for the big stage."
And with no seniors on the roster, Wilson expects the Yellow Jackets (19-8) to return to the big stage.
"You can quote me," Wilson said. "We'll be back here next year."
Who can blame Wilson for his confidence considering all his team's points Saturday came from four sophomores and an eighth-grader.
Sophomore Tyra Vaughn was named the game's Most Outstanding Player after pouring in a team-high 15 points to go with six steals and three assists.
"We kind of started the game off slow," said Vaughn, whose team trailed 11-3. "We came back. We were a little nervous at first. We had to start picking it up. We are in the finals. We couldn't lose. We had a lot of people depending on us."
Sophomore Genise Wells scored 13 points, including a 3-pointer to start the second quarter that gave Prep its first lead. Chardae Dixon (eight points and a team-high five rebounds), Tyrione Sparks (five points) and Dailone Freeman (two points) rounded out the scoring.
But the Jackets did most of their damage on the other end, forcing their rivals from New Orleans East into 29 turnovers.
"That's the game," said St. Mary's coach Keith Haywood. "Twenty-nine turnovers and only lose by one? Protect the ball and you win the game. That's one of the things we talked about."
Despite the turnovers, the Cougars (14-18) still had a chance late in a nip and tuck game throughout.
But trailing 43-42 in the final seconds, St. Mary's committed a pair of late turnovers that sealed their fate.
Freshman Tomyree Thompson's 16 points and seven rebounds led St. Mary's.
Seniors Haili Duncan and Kia Batiste scored nine points each for the team that was going for its second state championship and first since 1998. Batiste also had nine rebounds.
"Our season was very successful," said Haywood, who will carry 650 career wins into next season. "We believed from Day 1 that we would be here, and the fact we made it here is a testament of who we were. We just didn't finish the deal. We could feel it. We just couldn't grab it."
St. Kataharine Drexel Prep, meanwhile, got it done just five years after almost no longer being a school. Called Xavier Prep at the time, the school was about to be shut down for financial reasons. But alumni saved it and renamed it in 2013.
But with that name change came an identity crisis.
"I've had people to ask 'who in the world is St. Katharine?'" Wilson said. "They just didn't know. She is a legacy of her own. This now helps us a lot in the community as far putting us back on the map."
It was Prep's second win of the season over St. Mary's after winning 53-51 in the regular season in December. But the stakes were much higher this time around for Wilson and his young Yellow Jackets.
"It's a special moment," Wilson said. "It's almost like whatever God has for you is coming, you just have to be patient.I knew this was coming. But it came a helluva lot faster than I thought."