HAMMOND — Mount Carmel senior Paige Franckiewicz flipped the switch with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.
Natchitoches Central never recovered.
Franckiewicz — or perhaps “Big Stage Paige” would be a more fitting name — buried a 3-pointer that ignited an incredible run and No. 2 Mount Carmel cruised to an easier-than-expected 68-48 victory in the Class 5A semifinals at Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center.
Mount Carmel (25-6) will go for its second state title in three years at 8 p.m. on Friday when it Mandeville or Denham Springs.
Franckiewicz, who will play at Loyola next season, finished with a game-high 21 points, including five 3-pointers.
She picked up right where she left off from in 2014 when she totalled nine 3-pointers in the semifinals and title game to help the Cubs win their first championship.
Credit some of her success to a book she’s reading called “How Champions Think.” The book talks about a golfer.
“When he doesn’t think, that’s when he performs the best,” Franckiewicz said. “When I catch, don’t think and just let it fly, that’s when I’m my best.”
Mount Carmel trailed 39-32 when Franckiewicz drained her fourth 3-pointer . It sparked a 30-1 run, quickly turning the seven-point deficit into an insurmountable 60-40 lead.
First-year Mount Carmel coach Jamie Thomatis wasn’t surprised by the run.
“It’s kind of what we’re used to,” Thomatis said. “I guess you get spoiled, and that’s why the first half we were wondering ‘what’s going on?’ ”
Mount Carmel led 15-10 at the end of the first quarter and 23-15 midway through the second before getting outscored 10-0 to close the half. They trailed 25-23 at halftime.
Ellie Holzman, a 6-foot freshman forward, got the Cubs going in the second half, scoring six straight points to start the quarter. She scored nine of her 18 points in the third quarter.
Not bad for a player who was just a seventh-grader watching Mount Carmel on television two years ago.
“It’s definitely a lot of pressure, but the girls I’m working with make it easier,” Holzman said.
Megan Donaldson also reached double figures with 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
Point guard Kristen Nuss and Lauren Bodino scored seven points each. Nuss did most of her damage finding open teammates, finishing with 12 assists.
“It’s nice being able to pass the ball and know the shot is going in or throwing it down low and knowing no matter what, that ball is going in,” Nuss said.
And the ball just wouldn’t stop going in during that second-half stretch. That wasn’t the case for Natchitoches Central, which finished 25-8.
Natchitoches, a No. 3 seed, went almost eight minutes without a field goal during the game-changing run.
Jolie Williams and Kierra Brimzy scored 14 points each to lead the Chiefs.
“We didn’t do a good job of sticking to the game plan, and they nailed them,” Chiefs coach Nikki Jones said.
Mount Carmel now is one win away from what would be the school’s third state championship this school year. The school also won a volleyball championship in the fall and a soccer title Saturday.
“I had a coach once who would say ‘fail to prepare, then prepare to fail,’ ”, Franckiewicz said. “I don’t think anyone on the team failed to prepare.”