ZACHARY — Top-seeded Lee High jumped out to an early lead and never wavered while notching a 70-58 victory over McKinley High in the title game of the East Baton Rouge Parish Girls Basketball Tournament on Tuesday night.
The game was a showcase for two of the area’s top players, Diamond Hunter of Lee and McKinley’s Erica Lafayette. Each player scored 29 points for their respective team in an intense, physical game in which 43 fouls were called.
“The score does not even begin to show how hard it was for us to win this game,” Lee coach Valencia Wilson said. “I am so impressed by McKinley and the things Temeka (Johnson, McKinley coach) has done in such a short time. Their demeanor and attitude are different. And they pushed us. When we needed them, Diamond and Ivy (Iviona Hatch) made plays.”
Hunter’s backcourt mate, Hatch, finished with 22 points. The duo combined for 51 points. It was Hatch who kept the Patriots steady when Hunter and another senior starter, Aniya LaGarde, got in early foul trouble. Me’gan Brown and Kenyal Perry added 10 points each for third-seeded McKinley (4-1).
Though McKinley made multiple runs at Lee throughout the final three quarters, a 10-0 run to start the game proved to be pivotal for Lee (5-0), which won its second straight EBR title.
“First of all, you have to give credit to Lee … hats off to them,” McKinley’s Johnson said. “Those players have been together a long time and they do a good job of executing what their coach wants. I’m pleased with most of what I saw from my team. But we still have a ways to go.”
Lee scored the game’s first 10 points in the 83 seconds. Hatch and Hunter each had a 3-pointer to fuel the early run.
McKinley gradually cut into the gap. A layup by Perry made it 16-9 with 55.2 to go in the first quarter. But Ceara Myers’ jumper from the baseline with 39 seconds left sent Lee into the second quarter with an 18-9 lead.
There were 22 first-half fouls whistled on the two teams as they raced up and down the court, at times, getting out of control. Lafayette, a Rutgers signee, led all scorers in the first half with 13, all but two of which came at the free throw line.
However, a coast-to-coast drive by Lafayette with 14.8 seconds remaining sliced Lee’s lead to 30-23 at halftime. Getting even closer to the Patriots was a tough task. Hunter and Hatch delivered key baskets each time it looked like McKinley was poised to make a decisive run.
Lee led 53-38 going into the fourth quarter. McKinley kept battling, but got no closer than nine at 67-58 in the final minute as Hunter, a Sam Houston signee and the tourney MVP, scored 10 fourth-quarter points.
ZACHARY 78, BAKER 33: Northwestern State signee Osha Cummings scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Broncos (3-1) to victory. Cummings had four 3-pointers in the third-place game. Alissa O’Dell added 15 for the Broncos.
Jordan Harris led Baker (4-2) with 11 points, while Michelle Landry contributed 10.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Also making the All-Tournament team were: Hatch of Lee, Lafayette of McKinley, Nicolevya Freeman of Belaire, Jakirani Drewery of Capitol, Woodlawn’s Kyra Britton, Dynisha Riley of Mentorship, Precious Carter of Glen Oaks, Baker’s Harris and Cummings of Zachary.