By Trent Friedel, exclusive to the Times
Thursday night was the scene of heated hardwood action at the Teepee as Natchitoches Central honored their senior basketball players. The Lady Chiefs and Chiefs played host to district foe Ouachita. The Lady Lions entered the contest as the number three seed in class 5-A and put their 25 – 5 record on the line. The Lady Chiefs have the number six seed.
The Lady Chiefs won the tip but couldn’t convert to points. They got the ball back on an errant Lion pass. Central struck first with points coming from the free throw line. Ouachita had trouble with the Chief full court press and turned the ball over again. The high post pick and roll resulted in a score for Central. Lady Lion #20 Williams was fouled going to the hole but is unable to hit either of her free throws. Lady Chief’s get the rebound and work the ball into the lane for a score and an early 5 – 0 lead. Ouachita got on the scoreboard with about half of the first quarter expired.
The Lady Chief’s settled into a half court man to man defense up by seven. Ouachita drew closer on missed shooting by Natchitoches Central and a foul put the Lady Lions at the line. Lions were within two points. With under a minute in the first, Natchitoches had the ball but traveled and turned the ball over as the clock shows 28.3 seconds. Lady Lions are fouled on a fast outlet pass into the front court but only made one of two from the line. Lady Chiefs got two offense boards and scored as time expires in the first and the Chiefs hold a 16 – 11 advantage. The second quarter started with NCHS extending the lead to seven. Ouachita worked to get the ball to #40 McGuire, but met stiff resistance on each attempt. Minimal scoring in the early portion of the period. The Chiefs nailed a baseline three to the delight of the crowd. #34 Sowell gets fouled going for a layup that she gets to fall. Sowell converts the “and one” to make it a 24 – 15 game favoring Central. Both teams run man to man and went to their bench often to find the right mix of players on the court. Ouachita would not go away and got the contest to a two-point game on back to back inbound steals and scores. 25 – 23 Lady Chiefs.
Lion’s #44 Williams is fouled and went to the charity stripe with a chance to tie the game. She is successful and it is knotted at 25. Lady Chiefs answered with a quick score and steal a cross court pass from the Lions that Franklin turns into points. Ouachita quickly scored as well and Natchitoches Central led by one at the half. Early third quarter had the Chiefs extending their lead to seven before the Lady Lions answered the challenge and pulled the game to within two again, 37 – 35.
Ouachita had a chance to tie the game again but squander that on missed shots. The lead was four and the pace quickened inside the teepee. The up tempo does not equal scoring and Lady Lions are back to within two, 39 – 37 after three quarters. Multiple possessions for each team opened the fourth quarter with neither scoring. #24 Hargrave sank a three to give Ouachita their first lead of the game, 40 – 39.
Franklin says “I’ll accept that challenge” and hits her own three ball from the left side of the arc. 42 – 40 Central back on top. With under four minutes to go, Lady Lions were in the bonus but unable to make free throws. Ouachita #42 Green got a rebound and went the distance to score and retake the lead 43 – 42 with 2:42 showing. Lady Chief #11 Brown is fouled but unable to convert from the charity stripe. Lady Lions got the board and threw a pass out of bounds and the score is stuck at 43 – 42 Lions with 1:50 on the clock.
Hold onto your headdress, the teepee was shaking and smoke signals rose from the hardwood. Ouachita added one to their lead as #42 Green made one of two from the line. Lady Chiefs scored to tie things up at 44. Lion’s were quick into the front court and scored, 46 – 44, 1:14.
Ouachita extended their lead on a full court pass to #44 Williams for the easy layup, 48 – 44. The clock ticked to under a minute and Lady Chiefs miss a three-point shot. Franklin made an acrobatic save on the ball going out of bounds and Chiefs are fouled on the follow-on shot. It was a perfect chance to score and make it a two-point game with the clock stopped, but they are unable. Still 48 – 44 Ouachita, 27.5 seconds and possession of the ball. The Lady Chiefs got a steal on the inbounds pass but still can’t score and commit a foul on #44 Williams. She makes one of two from the line, 49 – 44 with 14.1 seconds. Lady Lion’s #14 Tia Perry was called for a technical foul on the subsequent inbounds play. The foolish penalty sent Natchitoches Central to the free throw line with the clock stopped and gave them possession.
Payton sank both free throws and it is a three-point game 49 – 46. Lady Chiefs inbounded the ball after the free throws and drove the lane with a chance to score —- no good on the shot and Lions had the rebound and were quickly fouled. #21 Payton went to the bench having committed her final foul.
There was 4.7 seconds showing as Cambria Hargrave toes the line for Ouachita. The teepee was a cacophony of noise as the tribe tries to alter the free throws. The noise would be in vain as Hargrave sinks both shots and gives Ouachita the 51 – 46 win in a great contest that went to the wire.