Warren Arceneaux column: Three area teams take different paths to titles

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Southwest Louisiana teams produced individual brilliance, last-minute heroics and satisfying revenge during a stellar weekend at the girls high school basketball state championship tournament in Hammond, as Oakdale, Hathaway and Rosepine all took home state titles.

Oakdale was the drama specialist. The ninth-seeded Warriors knocked off Division IV non-select top-seeded White Castle on the road to make it to Hammond, then beat No. 4 Arcadia 47-46 in the semifinals on a last-second buzzer beater by Emani Young.

The Warriors claimed the title in more conventional style, using stifling defense to take early control in a win over No. 2 Lakeview. That win completed an incredible playoff run that saw the road Warriors win four consecutive games against higher-seeded teams, all away from home, and three of the top four seeds in Division IV.

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Oakdale’s late-season surge began in the last game of the regular season, when it beat district rival Rosepine, the top seed in Division III non-selct. The Eagles rebounded with a dominant playoff run that included a combined margin of victory of 80 points in the first three playoff games.

The last game looked to be another blowout as the Eagles built a 15-point second-half lead over Amite in the championship game. A run by the Warriors cut the deficit to two points in the last 2 minutes, sparking a sense of déjà vu for Rosepine, which squandered a 21-point lead in its quarterfinal loss to Rayville last season. This time the Eagles held tough, with Addison Fruge scoring baskets on Rosepine’s next three possessions to clinch a 69-61 win and the first state championship in program history.

Hathaway also shook off past playoff pain, beating longtime postseason nemesis Fairview in the Division V non-slect championship game. The win snapped a streak of five consecutive playoff wins for Fairview in the rivalry, including the 2020 and 2021 championship games.

The Hornets blistered the nets in the first quarter, building a 24-7 lead it would not relinquish. The Hornets held the notoriously strong-shooting Panthers to 24 percent shooting in the game, giving coach Courtneé Hollins, a former Fairview star, her first title as a coach.

St. Louis Catholic came up short in its fifth consecutive championship game appearance, losing to perennial power Lafayette Christian Academy. The Saints delivered plenty of thrills with star guard Paris Guillory smashing the Class 3A/Division II scoring record with a brilliant 41-point performance in a semifinal win over Vandebilt Catholic.

The Saints were in control early against LCA with Guillory continuing her rampage while Sunny Woodcock and Gabbie Link added long-range shots to give the Saints the lead for most of the first half.

The Knights rallied to take a halftime lead and held off a fourth-quarter Saints rally, but Guillory’s 27-point performance earned her another place in the record book. Her two-game total of 68 points set a class record and capped an incredible career that included two state titles and more than 2,000 career points.

Warren Arceneaux covers high school athletics. Email him at warren.arceneaux@americanpress.com