After falling behind 8-3 early in the first quarter of Thursday’s quarterfinal against John Curtis, Mount Carmel coach Jamie Thomatis said her team needed to take a deep breath.

Once the the No. 2-seeded Cubs (27-6) settled in, they went on to outscore the No. 10 Patriots by nearly 30 points the rest of the way in a 54-35 victory at Chapelle, advancing to the Class 5A semifinals.

“This group really wants to win so badly,” the first-year coach said. “They come out with so much intensity that we have to dial it down sometimes. Once we got that out of the way, we were able to really show what Mount Carmel basketball was all about.”

MCA’s third victory over Curtis (21-13) in the last month sends the Cubs to the LHSAA Top 28 at Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center in Hammond against No. 3 Natchitoches Central on Tuesday, which took down No. 6 Destrehan on Thursday.

“We lost last year in the quarterfinals, so this game meant a lot,” said MCA senior guard Kristen Nuss, who finished with 12 points, four assists and four steals.

“Our focus since the beginning of the year was to make it to Hammond, and it feels really great to reach that goal, but we know we have a tough team waiting for us.”

After MCA went into halftime with a 21-14 lead, both teams opened things up in a wild third quarter that saw each team nearly match its scoring output in the first half.

The increase in pace played directly into the Cubs’ hands, as Nuss and freshman center Ellie Holzman dominated near the basket and got easy shots for their team the entire half.

MCA outscored Curtis 33-21 in the final two periods and expanded its lead to 48-27 early in the fourth quarter.

Holzman posted her second consecutive double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“It was our inconsistency on defense that was the major difference,” Curtis coach Barbara Farris said. “Once Nuss started getting in the lane, she makes everything happen with her tremendous ball-handling ability and she knows who to get the ball to.”

Sophomore Dynah Jones led Curtis with nine points and four rebounds on the night.