HAMMOND — In the tiny Livingston Parish town of Holden, girls basketball is a community — and family — affair. And on Friday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 Tournament, Holden’s Lady Rockets carried their town back to the mountaintop.
The fourth-seeded Lady Rockets overcame a stumbling start against second-seeded Florien with a game-changing 19-0 run midway through the game and rolled on to a 42-34 victory to win the school’s fifth Class B state title at the SLU University Center.
“I can tell you without even asking the next question — this was the sweetest,” Holden coach Pam Forbes said of the championship, the fourth produced by her and her assistant coach husband, Craig Forbes. “This is not just a state championship for us, it’s for the whole community.”
Before an overwhelmingly purple crowd cheering them on, the Lady Rockets (26-6) gave them little to cheer about for the first 13 minutes. Holden shot just 1-for-14 from the field in the opening period while turning it over five times as Florien (36-5) raced to a 14-5 lead after the first quarter.
The Lady Blackcats still led 21-13 before Holden finally began to find the range. The Lady Rockets ripped off a 10-0 run to forge a 21-21 tie at halftime. A 3-pointer by Montori Weber, another by Kaitlyn Kropog, then a driving layup by Kropog got the two teams back to even at intermission.
That game-tying 10-0 run started a 19-0 Holden surge in which the Lady Rockets held Florien scoreless for 7:40, turning a nine-point deficit into a 30-21 lead.
“We stepped back a little bit in the first quarter, let them get a step on us, then we kind of panicked,” Forbes said. “But in the second quarter, when we got where we belonged on defense, good things started happening for us. When we have ball pressure and everyone else is where they’re supposed to be and we rebound, good things will happen for us.”
“We kept things positive, very positive, and we talked to each other,” Holden guard Kaitlin Kropog said of avoiding paralyzing frustration when the shots weren’t falling.
“You can’t get mad at each other just because something’s not going our way,” added Lady Rockets senior Kassie Cox.
Florien recovered long enough to score the last seven points of the third quarter to get back within 33-30. But Holden did not allow a single field goal in the fourth quarter as the Lady Rockets pulled away again.
Kropog was voted the game’s Outstanding Player after scoring a team-high 13 points for Holden. Kaylee Hughes added 10 points and senior post Sydney Hayden added eight points, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals.
Hayden also delivered a strong defensive effort that held Florien leading scorer Aja Law to 12 points — eight below her average — and 10 rebounds. Alasia Gipson added 10 points for the Lady Blackcats.
“The first four minutes of the third quarter set the tempo for the last half,“ Florien coach Dwain Strother said. “We just didn’t set our tempo. Anybody would like to be state champs, but you can’t hang your head about runner-up. Some of the youth of them finally showed up toward the end, and I was expecting that.”
Now the stage is set for yet another victory parade— maybe the sweetest yet — in Holden.
“I can tell you, Sunday at two o’clock, Holden’s going to be rocking,” Forbes said.