Late-game heroics send Lady Wildcats to Final Four

Need consistency on offense to knock off speedy Helen Cox in semifinals

The Destrehan Lady Wildcats refuse to lose and now find themselves two wins away from a Class 5A state championship.

Destrehan hasn’t lost since Nov. 25 and the team has done everything in their power to make sure they never taste defeat again. Trailing No. 3 Walker in the quarterfinals last Thursday by a 46-40 score with only seven minutes left, the Lady Wildcats fought back to tie the game at 55-55 with 39 seconds left on the clock.

Destrehan turned the ball over to Walker soon after tying the game, but senior Jordan Dabney stole the ball back and passed it to freshman Cara Ursin. As the seconds wilted off the clock, Ursin missed the layup, but Dabney rebounded the missed shot and scored to give her team a 57-55 lead with only a few seconds left in front of a packed crowd at R.K. Smith Middle School.

After the shot, Destrehan head coach Angi Butler said the only thing running through her mind was the hope that her squad would stay focused and tighten up their defense to keep Walker from scoring in their final possession.

Her team did just that to complete the comeback and advance to Lake Charles for “Marsh Madness,” which will match up the top four teams in Class 5A.

“This says that no matter what the circumstances may be, we are determined to persevere and work together as a team to get to the Final Four state championship,” Butler said.

The Lady Wildcats, who blew out most of their opponents in district play, had to work hard for the quarterfinal victory. Walker held a 17-10 lead after the first quarter, but Destrehan cut into the advantage in the second to get within two points at 32-30.

In the final quarter, the Lady Wildcats outscored Walker 17-11 for the victory.

Butler was proud of her team’s tenacity down the stretch, but felt they missed a lot of easy shots early on.

“That’s frustrating as a coach because we worked so hard on those in practice, but I was extremely proud of how hard the girls fought to win the game,” she said. “They played tough to the very end and pulled off the win.”

Ursin led Destrehan in scoring, finishing with 19 points.

Alexis Jackson added 14 points while Dabney scored 10.

Amy Sanders was the top scorer for Walker, finishing with 11 points.

The win continues one of the best seasons in Destrehan girls’ basketball history. The Lady Wildcats sole loss on the season occurred to Karr. Since then, Destrehan has rolled to 27 wins in a row.  They hope to build on that success on Thursday when they face No. 15 Helen Cox at 2:45 p.m. at Lake Charles’ Burton Coliseum.

“Our overall success speaks volumes,” Butler said of her team’s season so far. “Making it to the Final Four says we’ve worked hard every day to reach our goals. We’ve stayed focused on and off the court to ensure that nothing would keep us from achieving our dreams.

“Dreams do come true.”

Helen Cox is currently 25-8 on the season and finished with an 11-1 district record in 8-5A. They opened the playoffs with a 48-46 win over Mandeville before knocking off No. 2 West Monroe 49-35 in the second round.

They advanced to the semifinals after beating Ponchatoula 49-42.

Butler said that Helen Cox moves the ball well on offense and often finds the open player in order to get easy baskets. On defense, Cox is a quick team who mostly runs zone.

“We’re going to have to penetrate their zone in order to get those shots off the block that prove to be crucial in the end,” Butler said.

Butler added that her team must also be more consistent on offense and make the easy shots that they missed against Walker if they hope to advance to the state title game.

“We are a quick team as well which makes this such a good matchup,” Butler said. “Our defense has to be strong and our transitions are going to have to be smooth to get (Helen Cox) out of their comfort zone.”

If Destrehan beats Cox on Thursday, they will play the winner of No. 9 Mt. Carmel and No. 5 Denham Springs on Saturday in the championship game. The championship game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on March 8 at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

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