By LaMar Gafford, exclusive to the Times
Basketball is a game of runs.
With a 6:45 left in the third quarter and nursing a 18-15 lead, it appeared that Natchitoches Central was on its way to winning its first Class 5A title since 2010.
However, the Lady Chiefs could not respond to a 12-0 run by East Ascension as it lost 37-32 Saturday in the Class 5A championship game Saturday at Rapides Coliseum.
“I thought we played hard tonight, but we didn’t play smart,” NCHS coach Nikki Jones said. “I think the nerves got us here and there off their defense. We tried to take it one-on-one a little too much tonight We never let our offense develop.”
Like Thursday, it was another rough shooting night for the Lady Chiefs, as they shot at a 24.1 percent clip and made just 3 of their 21 3-pointers.
The difference was their free throw shooting, as they were 3-for-12 from the line Saturday as opposed to 23-for-40 Thursday against Captain Shreve.
Senior guard Jolie Williams was limited to 17 points on 6 of 25 shooting.
“I don’t think it was anything (different) than we’ve seen all year, we just did a bad job on offense tonight,” Jones said. “All year, teams have been trying to play a box-and-one on Jolie and they didn’t do that. They just strictly played man-to-man and our shots didn’t fall tonight.”
East Ascension earned its first title in program history as junior guard Tristen Washington earned Most Outstanding Player honors after scoring 14 points and pulling down three rebounds.
“When I first got here in 1997, everyone told me, ‘I’d like to see that day,’” Lady Spartans coach Dennis Chandler said. “That day is here right now and we are very, very proud of that.”
“It means a lot,” Washington added of being part of the first EA girls basketball team to win a state title.
NCHS closes the season with a 28-9 record after making the 5A title game for the first time since 2013 under former coach Emma Boozman.
“I’m extremely proud of the girls,” Jones said. “If you look at players Nos. 1-5 and Nos. 1-12, we shouldn’t have been here, probably. But through hard work, teamwork and them believing, we got here and I’m extremely proud of them.”