MONROE —Vermilion Catholic was the underdog and trailed by three points with 1:15 remaining in the Class 1A girls basketball title game.
Though teammate Katie Frith dominated in the paint all day long, sophomore Kaylen Collins made the plays in the final 30 seconds, including the game-winning shot with 6.2 seconds remaining, to give No. 2 Vermilion Catholic a 54-52 victory over top-seeded West St. John.
“It was amazing to see (the ball) go in and then to hear everybody cheer,” Collins said afterward.
Frith, who finished with a game-high 25 points and 20 rebounds, was voted the title game’s Outstanding Player. Collins added nine points and 11 rebounds for the Abbeville-based Eagles, who won their first state title since 1999.
In addition to the game-winning layup on a pass from Ashailee Brailey, Collins also made two crucial free throws with 22.8 seconds remaining to get VCHS within one point. The Eagles (30-6) made 24 of their 30 free throws, led by Frith, who was 11-for-14.
However, the VCHS duo were not the only standouts in the game that opened Thursday’s four-game session at the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s Fant-Ewing Coliseum. West St. John’s Jalyn Gordon finished with a game-high 30 points, including six 3-pointers. A University of Louisiana at Lafayette signee, Gordon was 6-of-12 on 3-pointers, hitting four 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Brailey added 10 points for Vermilion Catholic, while Jajuan Nicholas had 10 for West St. John (30-2).
The lead changed hands six times during the topsy-turvy fourth quarter that also included six ties.
“All we asked was for (the VCHS) players was to give it all they had and have no regrets,” Vermilion Catholic coach Kim Guidry said. “That’s exactly what I told them in that last timeout.”
Gordon had made one of two free throws to tie the game for West St. John at 52-52 with 18.9 seconds left. Guidry called timeout with 11.5 seconds left. She said there was no set play, but the plan was two get the ball to either Frith or Collins.
Brailey saw an opening and passed it to Collins, whose shot bounced on the rim before going through to give the Eagles the lead. West St. John got the ball back with 4.4 seconds remaining, but Gordon’s heave from just beyond halfcourt was off the mark.
“I’d like to tip my hat to Vermilion,” West St. John coach Lester Smith said. “We started off slow. It was one of those things. I thought we played hard and left it out on the floor.”
With Gordon hitting four 3-pointers, West St. John raced out to an early lead and took a 14-12 edge into the second quarter.
Vermilion Catholic and Frith controlled the second quarter, outscoring the Rams 12-4. Frith scored seven points in the quarter and the Eagles took a 24-18 halftime lead.
West St. John turned the tables, outscoring VCHS 18-11 in the third quarter. Gordon scored 10 points in the period to fuel the run which set up the furious fourth quarter.