LAKE CHARLES — Parker Edwards — or anyone else who has ever worn a St. Paul's uniform for that matter — had played in the LHSAA boys basketball tournament.
But boy did Edwards seem right at home in Burton Coliseum on Thursday afternoon
The senior guard made sure the Wolves' first trip wasn't a short one.
Edwards took over the second half and finished with a game-high 34 points to lead No. 2 St. Paul's to a 59-52 victory over No. 3 Catholic High of Baton Rouge in the Division I semifinals.
"It just means so much," Edwards said. "This is what we came here for. We knew it was coming, and it finally came. These last two games I have just been putting all I have on the court. I'm just doing whatever I can to win."
St. Paul's (27-5) advances to Saturday's 6 p.m. championship game to play top-seed Scotlandville, which beat rival McKinley in Thursday's other semifinal.
Edwards scored 21 of his team's 29 second-half points. He saved his best for the final quarter, when he scored 12 points. None of those points were bigger than his back-to-back 3-pointers with 4:57 left that tied the game at 47. The Wolves were trailing 47-41, their largest deficit of the see-saw game before Edwards' two 3-pointers. It ignited a 10-0 St. Paul's run.
It's what second-year Wolves coach Stephen Dale has come to expect from Edwards.
"I'm not even amazed even more," Dale said. "We just mark him down for 25 or 30 a game, and we'll figure out the rest of it. He is so special with what he can do with the ball offensively. But I think he doesn't get enough credit for the way he is defending right now. Everybody is going to hop on him as a shooter and a scorer. But I'm telling you right now what I see is that he is locked in as a defender right now, and that's contributing to the winning."
Edwards finished with seven 3-pointers, one shy of his career-high. But it was those last two that springboarded the Wolves into the finals.
"They were open looks, and I knocked them down," Edwards said. "I saw the whole bench and the crowd getting into it. Those are shots I can make."
Edwards had plenty of help. Chandler Owenby finished with 10 points (four dunks) and 12 rebounds and Devonte Allen had 10 points and eight rebounds. All three of the seniors sat beside Dale during postgame interviews.
"This is an unbelievably tough team," Dale said. "I don't know if there is a better way to describe us. To be down five (actually six) to that type of team and to be able to lock in and get huge stops and loose balls and rebounds down the stretch was big. We knew the offense would take care of itself. If we could just get enough stops, we'd win."
St. Paul's outscored Catholic 18-5 over the last six minutes. They held the Bears scoreless for 3⅓ minutes in the quarter.
"Credit to St. Paul's," Catholic coach Mark Cascio said. "Every time we got the momentum they did a great job of seizing it back."
The Bears, making their first trip to the semifinals since 1995, finished 19-9. Kentrell Garnett scored 16 and Collin Holloway had 14 points and 11 rebounds. It wasn't quite enough to offset Edwards big day.
"He's a great player," Cascio said of Edwards. "I thought we did a great job on him defensively, as crazy as that sounds with the impact he had on the game. He made some really tough shots. He is just one of those guys you can have a hand in his face, but it doesn't always affect his shot."
Now the Wolves are one win away from a title.
"We have been working for this for four years," Allen said. "We knew this was coming."