After winning in contrasting styles to open the girls basketball state playoffs, District 3-5A rivals LaGrange and Sam Houston will face each other today in the regional round, headlining a slate of games that features 25 Southwest Louisiana teams.

No. 14 Sam Houston (22-6) survived against Alexandria, winning 62-60 after letting a big lead slip away in the final few minutes. Allie Conner drained a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left to give the Broncos the win. They led by 13 early in the fourth quarter before a frantic rally by Alexandria in the last 2 minutes.

The No. 3 Gators (23-4), who will host Sam Houston, cruised to a 62-27 win over New Iberia.

Nadailyn Carrier led the Gators with 23 points, while Aasia Sam added 15.

“I felt we did well once our nerves were settled,” said Gators head coach La’Keem Holmes. “We definitely have room for improvement, but I feel like we adapted well.”

The Gators, who start five underclassmen, have won 17 of their last 18. Included in that stretch is a 64-54 win over Sam Houston in the final game of the regular season. That win came a week after the Gators’ lone loss of the calendar year, to district champ and No. 1 seed Barbe.

Holmes said he liked the competitiveness his team showed in the win over Sam Houston.

“We continued to fight when things didn’t go our way,” he said. “We didn’t go into a shell. It showed some maturity from when we played Barbe.”

Holmes is leery of the Broncos, who feature a plethora of perimeter snipers. Conner, Kyla Hamilton, Jil Poullard and Maegan Clark combined for 57 points against Alexandria. All scored at least 12. Hamilton led the way with 19. The Broncos made 10 3-pointers in the game.

“Sam Houston is probably the best shooting team we have played all year,” Holmes said. “They are well-coached and play hard all the time. They only know one way to play and they don’t back down.”

Holmes said his team has matured over the course of the season.

“We’re playing with more confidence, less off of emotions,” he said. “They have a better understanding of their own capabilities.”

Also in 5A, the top-seeded Bucs (24-6) will travel to No. 17 Thibodaux (22-10) after beating Acadiana 67-23 in the opening round.

In Class 3A, top seed and defending champion South Beauregard (28-6) will host No. 16 Marksville (14-14). The Lady K’s opened defense of their crown with a 70-21 win over Jewel Sumner. Ashlynn Derouen and Madison Fruge combined for 28 points for South Beauregard, with Carlee Burnett adding 14 rebounds.

St. Louis (13-12), the sixth seed in Division II, opens play against No. 11 Parkview Baptist (12-15) after having a first-round bye.

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