LAKE CHARLES — Baker High School did it again with defense.

The Buffaloes held off Abbeville 39-26 Friday afternoon in a Class 3A girls basketball semifinal at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Southwest Regional to return to the state final for the second time in four years.

Second-seeded Baker (25-5) held sixth-seeded Abbeville (27-7) to five points or below in each of the first three quarters, before the Wildcats scored 12 in the fourth to keep the Buffaloes from running away.

“Our motto is defense,” Baker coach Mike Stephens said.

“That’s what we work on. That’s what we’re known for.”

Anitra Whitfield scored a game-high 14 points to lead Baker, while Eugenea James added 8 points and 12 rebounds.

Baker’s Iesha Smith and Jacquis Dodson added eight and seven points. Derrian Nolan led Abbeville with nine points and 12 rebounds.

Baker will play the winner of top-seeded Albany and fifth-seeded Rayville in the championship game.

In 2010, Baker reached the final, where it lost 70-48 to Carroll. The Buffaloes have lost in the quarterfinals the past two years.

Stephens said his three seniors have compiled 102 wins in their four years.

“My ninth-grade year I played in the fourth quarter, but I wanted to lead the team to a championship and be able to say that we played together as a team and got there,” Whitfield said.

Baker led Abbeville 22-10 at the half and 30-14 at the end of the third quarter.

“They’re a very good team and very good on defense,” Abbeville coach Dean Dronet said. “They had a lot of size and they were well coached.”

Whitfield and Dodson found a crease in Abbeville’s defense in the third quarter, driving to the basket to combine for six of the Buffaloes’ eight points in the quarter.

“Because we were moving the ball so well in the first and second quarter, we were able to attack the lanes,” Dodson said. “They were in a zone the first two quarters, and they came out in man (-to-man) in the third quarter,” Stephens said

AHS opened the fourth quarter with a 7-1 run to cut the lead to 10 points with 3:50 to play, but Baker held the Wildcats to five points the rest of the game.

“I told them the last eight minutes, defense, defense, defense,” Stephens said. “Defense is going to win the game.”