Aristotle’s quote: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” wasn’t meant to apply to basketball. But it sure worked for top-seeded University High.
With different players stepping up to make plays at key times, the Cubs battled their way to a 53-47 victory over Jewel Sumner in a Class 3A semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament Wednesday at Burton Coliseum.
“Basically it’s all about not being selfish,” senior guard Mikayla Bates said. “We know we can rely and trust and depend on them (other UHS players) to make the right play.”
Bates, Kaila Anderson, Alanie Fisher and Chelsea Verrett all took turns carrying the defending Class 3A champions as they withstood a series of surges by Sumner, a school making its first tourney appearance since 1989.
Fisher finished with a team-high 14 points, including two 3-pointers that short-circuited one fourth-quarter rally by Sumner. Fisher also corralled a Sumner turnover in the final minute.
Verrett, who finished with 13, scored twice in the final 1:11 to extend a precarious three-point lead. Bates and Anderson hit baskets in the first-half that were just as crucial. Bates had 12 points and Anderson added nine points, four assists and four steals.
“I thought the girls played extremely hard,” UHS coach Bonita Johnson said. “They were diving for balls; they were battling on the boards. Both teams were playing extremely well today but somebody had to win.”
With the victory, UHS (31-2) advances to play the Ville Platte-Mansfield winner in Friday’s Class 3A final set for 8 p.m. Fifth-seeded Sumner (29-4) got a game-high 18 points and 14 rebounds from post player Bre’Ashlee Jones. Diamond Brooks added 17 points and nine rebounds.
A year ago, U-High beat Sumner 79-56 in a regional-round playoff game.
“We’ve come a long way since last year,” Sumner coach Kara Corkern said. “They gave their heart and soul out on the court (Wednesday night).
“I couldn’t ask for a better performance. You know, we’re only human and we make mistakes and sometimes mistakes cost us. That was our goal … to meet them (U-High) here. I couldn’t be any more proud of my girls.”
Both teams started slow. U-High led 4-1 midway through the quarter and extended that lead to 7-1. With Jones scoring five quick points Sumner rallied to within one at 7-6.
Anderson was the first-quarter difference-maker. The sophomore guard made two 3-pointers in the final minute – one from the top of the key and the other from the right wing. Those baskets sent the Cubs into the second quarter with a 15-8 lead.
The Cowgirls got the halfcourt game they wanted in the second quarter. For a while it looked like U-High might not find an answer.
Once again, U-High finished with a flurry. Bates’ 3-pointer with 56.2 seconds left rallied the Cubs from 19-17 deficit to a 22-19 halftime lead.
The ebb and flow continued in the second half. Jones gave Sumner a 25-24 lead with 5:07 left in the third quarter. U-High scored the next nine points. Fisher’s first 3-pointer extended the UHS lead to 38-30.
But Sumner scored the next seven points to close the quarter and trailed by one going into the final period.
Fisher hit two more 3-pointers and Verrett added one that keyed an 11-1 UHS surge.
The Cubs led 49-38 with 5:20 left. U-High went cold until Verrett scored at the 1:11 mark.
Sumner got within three at 49-46 on a free throw by Kiara Williams with 1:55 remaining. The Cowgirls also missed five straight free throws that could have put even more pressure on the Cubs.
“I really just wanted to win and get to the championship,” Jones said. “I’m glad we got this far and we’ll be back next year.”