ALEXANDRIA--Sisters are always stealing things from each other. Sometimes it’s your favorite pair of shoes or that one dress you were planning on wearing. Maybe it’s even a boyfriend.
Other times it’s a state championship MVP trophy.
For Cabria Lewis, it’s a tongue-in-cheek grudge she clearly hadn’t forgotten after Friday night’s 58-49 LHSAA Class 4A state championship title victory over top-seeded Benton (34-4). A year ago, Lewis registered a game-high 18 points in her team’s 56-40 win over Neville in the finals, and she was certain that would be enough to take home a trophy she wouldn’t have to share.
“But Kiana (Anderson) got it ‘cause she went and had back-to-back double-doubles,” Lewis said both with a laugh and an eye-roll. “So I had to come out and get it this time.”
A trio of sisters in every way but biology, Lewis, Anderson and Casey Harris have been through the highs and lows that any set of triplets could expect as teenagers. One of them forging their own path, as Anderson left for her own AAU team, leaving the other two behind in seventh grade. Struggling through loss at each other’s side, as both Anderson and Harris lost nearly entire seasons due to ACL tears. And, of course, occasionally being mistaken for one another.
“People around school think they (Lewis and Harris) are twins,” coach Darius Mimms said. “And me personally, I really believe they’re true sisters.”
But the truest mark of sisterhood may be the ability to be what the other can’t be when the stakes are highest, and for Lewis, that was Friday, the final time the three will take the court together in high school as they brought their school its third state girls basketball title in five years.
With her two hardcourt sisters struggling shooting a combined 1-for-9 from the floor and both battling injuries – Anderson the lingering affects of her ACL tear and Harris with shin splints – Lewis took on a heavy load and helped finish off the journey Mimms first tasked them to more than a year ago: bring home back-to-back state titles.
“She (Lewis) gave me that look like ‘I got you’ and she played lights out basketball tonight,” Mimms said. “I couldn’t be prouder of all my girls, but especially her, ‘cause I remember throughout the season, her teammates having adversity and bad days, and she’s out there fighting, fighting, and that’s all I could think about as the seconds ticked off the clock.
“I’m about to lose some special young ladies.”
Lewis finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting, and you could trace nearly every single bucket to a key moment in the game. Her 3-pointer two minutes into the contest, giving the Fighting Eagles an early 5-0 advantage, sent the 3019 Canal Street crowd into a frenzy and set the tone for the rest of the game. Lewis’ squad would always hold the upper-hand, with Benton constantly trying to dig themselves out of a hole.
After Warren Easton (32-5) had taken a commanding 23-8 lead midway through the second quarter, they watched as the Tigers methodically chipped away, using a stretch where they drew four fouls in 20 seconds to put the Fighting Eagles in early foul trouble and shrink the deficit with work at the charity stripe.
And it was Lewis’ put-back layup with 1:31 left in the half that stopped the bleeding, helping give her squad a 27-22 lead heading into the locker room.
Once Benton junior Qua Chambers, who finished with 22 points and nine boards, sunk a corner 3-pointer to tie the teams at 31-apiece with 4:34 left in the third quarter, Lewis put her team square on her back, scoring their final 12 points of the period that gave her teammates a six-point lead, 45-39, with eight minutes left.
But Mimms pointed out, in particular, that one of her misses with his team white-knuckling a two-point lead with a minute to go displayed the type of confidence a team leader needs down the stretch in a title game.
“She went to the line and missed the front-end of a one-and-one, and I didn’t even have to tell her anything,” he said. “She came over to the sideline and looked at me and said ‘Free throws. I’m gonna get it back.’ And she did.”
Junior Breanna Sutton, who finished with 16 points, and Harris would both follow with a pair of free throws to given Warren Easton a two-possession lead with 21 seconds left, but it was Lewis with her fierce drive to the hole, good enough for a bucket and a sunk free throw to complete an old-fashioned three-point play, that iced the game for good and put the final stamp on the Fighting Eagles’ back-to-back run.
“The instinct just came over me that I needed to take over, so I just took over,” she said with a laugh.
That fierce, take-no-prisoners attitude soon surfaced not long after Mimms challenged his seniors more than a year ago with what they achieved Friday. “We’re going to take what’s ours,” is what the coach said the team adopted as their motto.
But this run has been about more than basketball. Mimms doesn’t allow girls to matriculate through his program without proving they’re headed into the real world as changed, prepared young women. The coach thought back to the Lewis he first got to know as a freshman, and he marveled at the girl in front of him.
‘I’m looking for the whole person. I’m looking to make outstanding young women, and to see the way she came to me, rough around the edges, not serious about other parts in the classroom,” Mimms said. “And to see her the last four semesters on the honor roll, I was more ecstatic seeing her on the honor roll than this achievement tonight.”
Minutes before, Mimms sat outside the media room, moments after Lewis had just been named the Class 4A MVP – something she’d lusted after since falling short a year ago. But instead of basketball, the senior started talking through a school project she had to finish after Mardi Gras break.
At the start of her junior season, Mimms challenged his girls to pull off the back-to-back feat because he knew they could do it. But this caught him by surprise.
“Everyone expects it’s about winning basketball, but I teach from day one I want outstanding young citizens,” he said. “I know you’re thinking about back-to-back state champions, but I’m looking for growth.”
Spoken like a dad, marveling at his three daughters, trying to hold onto every last moment of pride – some for things he predicted and others he thought may never come.
“That in itself, it brought tears to my eyes.”