Time was running out for Destrehan to come back in its Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic championship game against John Curtis, down 10 with less than four minutes remaining. And yet in the end, there was more than enough remaining for the Ladycats to turn up the heat and secure the win.Destrehan rode a suffocating press and a late scoring flurry to outscore Curtis with a late 17-5 run, spurring the Wildcats to an eventual 68-61 victory Saturday at the Alario Center to remain unbeaten and seal the deal on the program’s first Sugar Bowl tournament title.
“We wanted to win this one and I’m super proud of our team,” Destrehan coach Angi Butler said. “This was the fourth tournament we’d had this season and the one we were building toward as kind of our mid-season championship.
“We’d finished second and third in this tournament before and this is what we wanted to use to really prepare to make a run in the state playoffs. To come back like we did, again, it makes me incredibly proud.”
Destrehan (20-0) felled Faith Academy, Natchitoches Central and Richwood en route to the championship.
The matchup with Curtis was a highly anticipated one, with the two talented teams entering the title game with one combined loss.
Curtis (15-2) led at the end of each of the first three quarters, including a 28-22 lead at halftime and a 44-42 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. The Patriots made a push early in the fourth to push their lead to 10, but Destrehan was undaunted.
“We made the adjustment to start pressing them, and I don’t think their guards were ready to handle our pressure,” Butler said. “We sent all five into the backcourt and I think it overwhelmed them a bit at the end.”
It took just about 90 seconds of game time for the Wildcats to come all the way back. Korriana Reynaud made a key steal, following up with a basket and free throw in the midst of the rally, and Cara Ursin made a 3-point play of her own. The surge culminated with Brandi Mason’s game-tying 3-pointer with 2:32 remaining. Destrehan jumped ahead and started getting to the line, with Ursin and Kiki Kenner each sinking free throws to ice the win.
Ursin finished the game with 27 points. Kenner added 18.
Butler said after the Wildcats went into halftime down by six, they recommitted themselves to make a strong second half push.
“We discussed how talented we are and what our goals are,” Butler said. “Curtis is very talented as well … when you have two teams like that, it becomes more about the mental game than the physical. I told our girls, we have a lot of talent, but we have to play our individual roles. ‘You do you, and we’ll be ok.’”
The players took those words to heart, scoring 11 of the first 14 points after the break.
Destrehan felled Faith Academy in the semifinals, 77-58. Ursin scored 27, Kenner 25 and Jerlicia Morris 13 en route to the win.
In the second round, it was Destrehan winning over Natchitoches Central, 80-58. Ursin scored 29, while Kenner and Morris added 19 and 17, respectively.
DHS bested Richwood 92-58. Ursin scored 27 while Morris and Kenner each added 24.
The Wildcats won the Sugar Bowl’s “Platinum” bracket, which also included Warren Easton, Ursuline, Fair Park, Cabrini, Ouachita Parish, Karr, Sumner, Ellender, Loranger, Salmen and Madison Prep.
Ursin averaged 27.5 points per game at the tournament, earning her Sugar Bowl MVP honors. It’s one more honor for the senior to add to her collection, which already includes two Gatorade Player of the Year awards and the title of Miss Basketball.
Kenner had a strong tournament as well, averaging 21.5 points per game. Butler credited Kenner for grabbing a key rebound down the stretch of the Curtis win that cemented a critical stop, and said the senior has come through again and again this season.
“She’s been a huge piece of the puzzle,” Butler said. “She’s come a long way, playing such a big role. We need her to score that 20 to 30 a game that she’s capable of. I’m super proud of what she’s bringing to our team. She’s coming in and motivating our young ones every day.”