Nazel Breaux ultimately foiled Grand Lake’s plan on Monday night in Edgard.
Grand Lake trailed West St. John by three points with less than two minutes left in the game. The Lady Hornets had committed only two team fouls to that point, so they started to foul the Lady Rams to put West St. John at the free-throw line in the bonus situation to stop the clock.
The Lady Hornets finally forced West St. John (28-7) to the free-throw line with 51 seconds left in the game. Breaux hit the first free throw to extend the Lady Rams’ lead to four points at 40-36.
Grand Lake (20-8) countered with a 3-pointer by Maci Montie to make it a one-point game.
Breaux again was sent to the line and missed the front end of the one-and-one. The Lady Hornets came up with the rebound but were unable to score on their end, sending Breaux back to the free-throw line.
She again missed the front end, but Kylie Adams came up with the rebound for West St. John. She was fouled and sent to the line for two free throws. Adams missed both free throws with 8.4 seconds in the game but Breaux grabbed the rebound.
“I just had to focus. It was a moment I had to focus and go up and get the rebound,” said Breaux.
Breaux went to the line again, this time for two shots and hit them both with 5.7 left in the game to seal a 42-39 victory that sends the Lady Rams to the Class 1A quarterfinals.
“I was just trying to make it,” Breaux said of her clutch free throws. “My team was up and I followed through like my coach taught me in practice. That’s what I was trying to do.”
“The turning point was when she made the free throws after she got the rebound,” said West St. John coach Lester Smith.
Breaux finished with 11 points. West St. John’s Stevante Hamilton led all scorers with 17 points. Adams chipped in 10 for the Lady Rams.
Kailey Murrell led Grand Lake with 14 points while Montie added 12.
West St. John’s next opponent will be KIPP Booker T. Washington. The No. 2 seed defeated Homer, the 15 seed, 55-35 on Monday. The Lady Rams will take on KIPP Booker T. Washington at 6 p.m. Thursday in New Orleans. Earlier in the season, the Lady Rams lost to KIPP Booker T. Washington 63-27.
“The last two years we have been knocked out, so it’s a good opportunity to get to the quarterfinals,” said Smith.
St. Charles Catholic, the River Parishes’ only other remaining team in girls’ postseason play, was eliminated 70-23 by Ursuline, the No. 4 seed. The Lady Comets (5-20) were the No. 20 seed.
Thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Breaux and Hamilton, the Lady Rams grabbed an early 8-1 advantage.
Grand Lake responded by scoring the final eight points of the quarter to grab a 9-8 lead. Montie’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Lady Hornets their first lead of the game.
Smith said he knew Grand Lake was a good 3-point shooting team but though the Lady Hornets might have trouble handling the West St. John press. With the Lady Rams struggling to connect early in the game, however, West St. John could not apply its pressure defense.
“We could never get in the press. We kind of went man-to-man. Everybody that’s played them has played zone and we tried to go man-to-man,” said Smith.
Trailing 10-9, Grand Lake sored the next nine points to pull ahead 18-10.
A layup by Annie Broussard gave Grand Lake its biggest lead at 10 points at 22-10 at the 1:21 mark of the second quarter.
West St. John scored the final five points of the quarter, including a 3-pointer by Hamilton with two seconds remaining to make it 22-17 at the half.
The Lady Rams kept trying to cut Grand Lake’s advantage in the third quarter but could never get closer than a two-point deficit. Trailing by six points, Destiny Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left in the period to pull West St. John to within 32-29 going into the fourth quarter.
West St. John scored the first seven of the points, five coming on two Hamilton free throws and a Hamilton 3-pointer, to give the Lady Rams a four-point edge at 36-32 and West St. John would never trail again.
The Lady Rams’ stamina down the stretch, Smith said, proved to be the difference.
“We work hard on the conditioning,” the West St. John coach said. “We know that when it gets to the fourth quarter, that we would be able to pull it out. That’s all we ask for, give us a chance to win in the fourth quarter.”