It was like opposite sides of a coin.
Missed shots and missed opportunities told part of the story for fifth-seeded Denham Springs High School. The flip side was Mount Carmel Academy’s Kristen Nuss and Megan Donaldson.
The duo flipped the momentum by scoring 38 points to lead No. 2 Mount Carmel to a 59-48 victory over Denham Springs in a Class 5A title game that closed out Friday’s action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament.
“They’re smart,” Denham Springs coach Shelly Laprarie said of Mount Carmel. “They make you pay for every mistake. They came out hot and jumped on us quick. They came out in the third quarter and were missing shots and, when they’re missing shots, you’ve got to convert. And we didn’t.”
It was the second Class 5A state basketball title in three years for Mount Carmel (29-6). The Cubs jumped to a 7-0 lead and never trailed in the game played at Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center.
Nuss scored 20 points and made 7 of 8 shots. She also dished out nine assists as Donaldson made 6 of 11 3-pointers. Nuss and Donaldson combined to make 13 of 20 shots from the field.
“We were riding momentum, and we really wanted to win the state championship,” Nuss said. “We wanted to throw the first punch. That’s what we wanted to do all year. And if the other team answered, we handle it.”
Lauren Bodino added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the winners. Lexi McMorris scored 20 points, and Caroline Taylor added 17 for Denham Springs (30-4). The typically balanced Yellow Jackets got just 11 points from their remaining players.
Shooting was a big story. Mount Carmel made 44.7 percent of its shots from the field, compared to 31.0 for the Yellow Jackets.
Denham Springs got as close as five points in the first quarter — at 16-11 — after one of McMorris’ four 3-pointers with 2:19 remaining.
Mount Carmel led by nine after one quarter and extended its lead to 14 points in the second quarter.
It was an 11-point margin at halftime. A 3-pointer by Donaldson made it 37-25 with 6:44 left in the third quarter. The Cubs left an opening for the Yellow Jackets by missing six straight shots. But DSHS could not score either. Neither team scored for 3:35.
Mount Carmel did get back on track and took a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter.
“We had a journey, and I think we achieved our expectations,” said Jamie Thomatis, the third MCA coach in three years. “We had a lot of unknowns going on. As Kristen (Nuss) said the other day, when we won the Sugar Bowl (tournament) and it’s like, ‘We’re pretty good; we’re gelling.’ ”
A 3-pointer by Taylor got Denham Springs within 49-40 with 3:33 to go. Donaldson inserted the final dagger by responding with a 3-pointer from the wing 31 seconds later.
“My kids don’t need to hang their heads,” an emotional Laprarie said while noting that her team didn’t make the playoffs last year. “We weren’t supposed to be here. Nobody thought we could get here. And they fought their tails off ... they never gave up.
“They cut it to nine and they kept fighting their tails off. That’s what my kids do. We’ve got to come back and work that much harder and see if we can get back next year and finish it.”