Destrehan is on the doorstep of achieving something very few teams can attest to: a perfect season.
The Ladycats raced past Natchitoches Central in Thursday night’s Class 5A state semifinal, earning a 77-46 victory and a berth in the state championship game. A win there would seal an unbeaten record on the season for Destrehan (34-0), which showed how explosive it truly can be as it closed the semifinal game out.
Destrehan will face off with Barbe, the top seed in Class 5A, in Saturday night’s championship game (8 p.m.). Barbe defeated East St. John in overtime Thursday, 49-45, to advance to the final.
Destrehan and Natchitoches Central (24-9) were tied at halftime before Destrehan built a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter. But the fourth completely belonged to the Wildcats, as Destrehan outscored Natchitoches 31-10 in the frame to blow the game wide open.
“I just told the girls (at halftime), do you,” said Destrehan coach Angi Butler, who celebrated her birthday Thursday with the semifinal win. “We’re not down, we’re tied. So pick your heads up, play your game. Believe in you, come out and play your style of ball and you’ll be alright.”
Butler added with a smile, “I told the girls, it would so disrespectful, you can’t lose on your coach’s birthday. C’mon. Can’t send me home like that.”
It was the third time this season Destrehan defeated Natchitoches Central, each time by more than 20 points. It was a measure of payback, nonetheless; the Wildcats ended Natchitoches’ season a year after the roles were reversed, with NCHS knocking out Destrehan in the 2016 quarterfinals.
“Of course, it’s hard to beat a team three times, but we knew what was on the line,” said Destrehan’s Cara Ursin. “They took it from us last year. It was just us wanting it so bad. We’ve been three years just short of that championship win. We’ll play anyone in the state of Louisiana. We’re coming home with a ring.”
While Ursin dominated in the Wildcats’ quarterfinal win to the tune of 42 points, Thursday saw a more balanced effort for the Ladycats. Ursin scored 20 (to go with 11 rebounds and eight assists), while Kiki Kenner scored 18, Brandi Mason scored 15 and Korriana Reynaud and Jerlicia Morris each scored 11.
“You take (Ursin) out the game? (Then) what do you from my other four, five or six,” Butler said. “People don’t realize how talented the group around Cara really is. It’s always fun to see teams do what they can to take her out the game and to see what my other girls can do (when it happens). And haven’t let me down yet. We’re 34-0.”
Natchitoches made its biggest push of the night in the second quarter. After Destrehan forged a 16-7 lead after the first quarter, Natchitoches Central found a groove and outscored DHS 22-13 in the second quarter, including a 10-0 run to end the first half. That run was highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers by Jolie Williams, who scored a team-high 20 points for Natchitoches Central.
But Destrehan’s defense suffocated Natchitoches the rest of the night, allowing seven, seven and 10 points in the other three quarters, respectively.
While Williams hurt Destrehan at times, the Wildcats held NCHS’ other go-to scorer, Jada Duncontell, to two points on 1-15 shooting.
“(Duncontell and Williams) had 47 of their 59 points in the quarterfinals,” Butler said. “We knew we had to take out one or the other. From the film I’ve been watching, (Duncontell has been) stepping up. We had to have that tight man to man defense and staying consistent with her to get her off gher game. Kudos to Kiki, she stuck to her the whole second half and did a great job.”
The fourth quarter surge came despite the fact that Destrehan’s five starters each played the game’s full 32 minutes.
“We planned on playing about seven or eight, but sometimes you change your plan based on how the opponent is playing,” Butler said. “This was their semifinal, too … nobody’s been in the gym more than these girls. They were ready to finish, tonight.”
Destrehan outshot Natchitoches 47 to 27 percent and won the rebounding battle 46-33.