HAMMOND — With no juniors or seniors in its starting lineup, this team was supposed to be too young to win it all.
But as Ursuline Academy showed Saturday night ... why wait?
Led by a sensational performance by sophomore Kourtney Weber and a scoring flurry to close the game, No. 8 seed Ursuline beat No. 6 Rayne 61-48 in the Class 4A championship game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Top 28 girls basketball tournament on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana.
It’s the first championship in school history for the Uptown school, which last played in the title game in 1995. Weber led the way with 29 points, nine rebounds and five steals.
“When my shots started falling, I started feeling pretty good, and the game just came to me,” said Weber, the game’s Most Outstanding Player.
Ursuline trailed 48-47 with less than six minutes left but then delivered the knockout punch, scoring the game’s final 14 points.
The biggest point in the run came from sophomore Giordin Johnson. With her team clinging to a 51-48 lead, Johnson made a momentum-swinging 3-pointer that seemed to suck the air out of the Wolves.
“That’s one of the two things that usually get me started in a game,” Johnson said. “If I get a big 3 or lock somebody down on defense, it lights a fire in everybody and gets us going.”
Johnson finished with seven points, none bigger than that one.
“That 3 Giordin hit ignited everything,” Ursuline coach Andrea Williams said. “That was a special moment.”
There were plenty of special moments in this one, including Brooklyn Mitchell leaping into the arms of Williams as the clock expired.
Mitchell, also a sophomore, finished with 19 points.
But it was Weber doing the most damage on both ends of the court. She was six points shy of her career high of 35 she scored as a freshman against Warren Easton.
“She was amazing,” Williams said. “She just dug down deep and gave it all to her team. I told them, ‘Girls, this is your last game, no matter what. What are you saving your fouls for? What are you saving your heart for? Next Novemeber.’ I think Kourtney just said, ‘I’m going to do whatever I have to do for us to win.’ ”
Weber and Mitchell carried the Lions in the first half. Mitchell scored the first seven points, and Weber had the next eight. They combined for all but four of Ursuline’s first-half points as the Lions trailed 31-27 at halftime.
The Lions trailed by just four despite committing 18 turnovers in the first two quarters.
“We played like crap in the first half,” Williams said. “It was the worst half we’ve ever played. Any other team would be down by 15 to 20. I told them the only person that can beat you is yourself and, in the first half, we did a good job of doing that.”
Ursuline got going to start the third quarter and built a 38-33 lead, its largest of the game at that point, with 4:25 left. Rayne answered by going on a 9-0 run as Charlesha Dugas scored nine points in the quarter for the Wolves.
But Ursuline closed the quarter on a 7-0 run, capped by Weber’s buzzer-beating three-point play to close the quarter.
Dugas finished with 17 points for the Wolves (31-3), who had their 26-game winning streak snapped. Rayne was seeking its first title since 1990.
“I think the game was lost in rebounds,” Rayne coach Chester Randell said. “When we force 20 or more turnovers, we normally win in double digits. The Weber kid played a hell of a game, and (Mitchell) did a hell of a job handling the pressure.”
It was a bit of revenge for the Lions (27-6), whose season was ended by Rayne in the first round of the playoffs last season.
With their entire starting lineup returning, the future looks bright for the Lions.
“Next year’s going to be great, guys,” Mitchell promised.