LAKE CHARLES — When University High trailed by five points going into the fourth quarter, it looked like the odds for a second straight state title were decreasing.
Who needs odds when you can put together an 18-1 run?
That’s how the top-seeded Cubs notched a 52-42 victory over No. 3 Mansfield in the Class 3A title game that closed out Friday’s action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament.
“I thought we did a fantastic job of just hanging in there and wearing them down,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “The third and fourth quarter is usually when we take off. I think they did an excellent job of gut-checking and getting the job done.”
Title-game MVP Alanie Fisher had been sick since Wednesday’s semifinal win over Jewel Sumner. The senior shook off any signs of a fever and put the heat on Mansfield by hitting 6 of 8 3-pointers to finish with a game-high 21 points.
Destiny Ephrom scored 10 fourth-quarter points, while Kaila Anderson (11 assists), Mikayla Bates (nine points), Chelsea Verrett (eight points) and Genea Miles (seven rebounds) were among the other key contributors as the Cubs became the first U-High team to win back-to-back titles in a major sport since the boys basketball team did it in 1983-84.
“I was kind of worried about getting up and down the court,” Fisher said. “I had trouble doing that in our shootaround. But I thought about it and I knew I needed to focus and I needed to do this for my team.
“Before I came to high school I always thought about how big it (state championship trophy) is and that I’d like to have one. It’s better to have two.”
While U-High (32-2) used 13 players, Mansfield was limited to eight and played without two starters once guard Taylor Peoples went out with a concussion in the first half. Another starter, Carrie Woodley, missed the tourney after suffering a knee injury in the playoffs.
Guard Ashlyn Jacobs finished with 18 points for the Wolverines (30-4) but was double and triple teamed by U-High. Keiona Ross added eight points for MHS.
“First of all, I want to give University High credit for winning the championship,” Mansfield coach Kendra Neal said. “They’re a complete team, they’re a good team. I had two starters out, and that’s about 20 points and 15 or 16 rebounds we were missing. That was unfortunate for us but fortunate for U-High.”
U-High got two free throws from Fisher to start the game but struggled offensively in the first quarter. The Cubs got some good looks, but went 1-for-14 from the field. Verrett scored the first field goal for UHS with 42 seconds left.
Though Jacobs made some nifty moves to navigate through the UHS pressure, the Wolverines had their own issues, making 3 of 12 shots from the field.
Mansfield led 11-4 after one quarter. U-High scored 10 of the first 12 points in the second quarter and took a 14-13 lead on a 3-pointer from the left corner by Fisher with 4:47 left. Dahlia Johnson’s layup made it 16-13 28 seconds later.
That’s when Jacobs got going again. The senior scored 11 straight for Mansfield dating to the first quarter. She drove in for back-to-back layups that gave the Wolverines the lead again. The score was tied briefly at 18-18. Mansfield scored six of the final nine points in the halftime and led 24-21.
Mansfield continued to have the upper hand in the third quarter. The Wolverines led by eight points at one juncture. A layup by Verrett at the buzzer cut the MHS led to 37-32.
Enter Ephrom, the Cubs’ leading scorer with a 14.2 average. She got in foul trouble and didn’t score in the semifinal win over Jewel Sumner and was in foul trouble against Mansfield.
Again on Friday she hadn’t scored. But what a fourth-quarter she had. Ephrom scored six of the Cubs’ first 10 points in the quarter.
A layup by Verrett gave the Cubs their first lead since the second quarter with 6:43 left. U-High never trailed again.
“I knew I had to come back and actually do something for my team,” Ephrom said. “So that’s what I did.”