ALEXANDRIA — Making its first appearance in the LHSAA girls basketball tournament, Northwest High School could not have asked for a better scenario.

The Lady Raiders had two opportunities to upset top-seeded and defending state champion Loranger in the final 16 seconds, but came up empty in falling 43-42 Wednesday night in the Class 3A semifinals at the Rapides Parish Coliseum.

Northwest missed a layup and an 18-foot jumper in the closing seconds, allowing the Lady Wolves to escape.

“We missed a couple of layups that we probably should finish,” said Northwest coach Nicole Manuel, whose senior-less team finished 26-10. “It wasn’t a question if we could hang with them. I always tell my girls we can hang with anyone. It showed we could hang with them.”

Yes, they could.

Mary Leday opened the second quarter with a corner 3-pointer and Khahli Malone scored in the paint to give Northwest a 13-7 lead, its largest of the game.

Loranger, which had won its second-round and quarterfinal games by an average of 26.5 points, used an 18-8 run spanning halftime to claim a 29-23 lead on an Ivy Carr corner 3-pointer with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Northwest counter-punched as Jala Thierry hit 2 3-pointers, Tashianna Fontenot hit one and Mary Leday beat the third-quarter buzzer with her own 3-pointer for a 35-31 lead.

From there, Loranger’s Jamya Mingo-Young displayed why she is the reigning Class 3A Player of the Year. The Mississippi State signee scored 10 straight points in a 3-minute span of the fourth quarter. Her old-fashioned three-point play broke a 40-40 tie to account for Loranger’s final points. She finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five steals.

“My senior season was on the line and I didn’t want to go home,” Mingo-Young said.

“Our focus was to limit the amount of times she touched the ball,” said Manuel. “She had 23 points. Jamya was our focus. She gets them started.”

With 16.5 seconds left, Loranger’s Lulu Hoofkin missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Northwest rebounded and quickly worked the ball up the court, missing a layup. Thierry grabbed the rebound, but fell to the ground with the ball to turn it over to Loranger with 8.9 seconds left.

Loranger turned it back over, throwing the ball out of bounds on the inbounds pass.

On Northwest’s inbound from its own corner near press row, Thierry passed it cross court to Katlyn Manuel. Her contested jumper came up short and the possession arrow was in Loranger’s favor on the ensuing tie-up with 1.6 seconds left. The Lady Wolves successfully inbounded to punch their ticket to

a second straight championship game appearance. Loranger, who played just five players — all seniors — improved to 24-2.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Loranger coach Sean Shields said. “They had a great game plan in slowing us down. They looked like the veteran team on the floor and we didn’t.”

“I’m proud of my girls,” said Manuel. “We lost by one point to the No. 1 seed. We will be back.”

Leday led Northwest with 14 points and Thierry had 12.