New Iberia holds off St. Joseph’s

St. Joseph’s Academy coach Stephanie Helgeson said she couldn’t have been prouder of her team’s fourth-quarter rally and effort.

SJA, seeded 25th, outscored No. 9 New Iberia Senior High 20-10 in the game’s final eight minutes. But the Redstickers ran out of a time and chances to score Thursday night.

Bria Johnson hit a 3-pointer with less than four seconds left to make it a three-point game. All NISH had to do was let the clock run out to claim a 46-43 win in Class 5A girls basketball regional-round playoff action at Catholic High.

“I’m just proud of the way my girls came out and fought,” Helgeson said. “They played their hearts out and to me that’s what counts most. They have come a long way. No one else expected us to be here in the second round.”

A 19-6 second-quarter surge fueled New Iberia (29-4). Kierra Anthony scored a team-high 18 points and had four 3-pointers, three of which came in the third quarter when the Yellow Jackets built a double-digit lead.

Moesha Kinard added 17 with three 3-pointers. NISH hosts top-seeded Southwood in a quarterfinal game Monday.

Johnson led St. Joseph’s (14-13) with a game-high 20 points and also dropped in three 3-pointers. Two of Johnson’s 3-pointers came in the final 24.3 seconds. Catherine Hodson contributed 14.

“We knew they wouldn’t quit,” New Iberia coach Jeremy Bonin said of SJA. “Coach Helgeson was the same kind of player when she played at Dominican and in college.

“I’m glad all the offseason work we did and all the conditioning we did and all the work on fundamental defense we did paid off. “Hats off to St. Joe. They deserved to win as much as we did. I thought we were tight, playing on the road. We’re building. We needed this one.”

The Redstickers took the early lead. Hodson made three free throws and scored a basket to help SJA gain an edge. Johnson sank back-to-back layups, including one off a steal, to up the Redstickers’ lead to 9-2 with 27.4 seconds left. SJA led 9-4 after one quarter.

But the second quarter belonged to New Iberia. New Iberia’s pressure defense took its toll as the game turned more physical and moved at a faster pace. SJA wound up with eight second-quarter turnovers. The Redstickers made only one field goal in the quarter.

A follow shot by Reneisha Alfred’s follow of a teammate’s miss gave New Iberia its first lead at 13-12 with 4:11 left in the half. Kinard scored seven second-quarter points as New Iberia extended its lead to 23-15 at halftime.

The Yellow Jackets picked up where they left off in the third quarter. Anthony hit three 3-pointers to fuel the NISH offense.

Anthony’s first 3-pointer extended the New Iberia to 11 points to open the quarter. St. Joseph’s cut the lead below 10 points once, on a jumper by Hodson that made it 28-19 with 4:31 left.

New Iberia took a 36-23 advantage in the fourth quarter. A layup by Bailey Favaloro and a free throw by Johnson got St. Joseph’s within 10 points at the 5:27 mark of the fourth quarter. Hodson made it a 10-point game again with 3:11 left with another basket.

St. Joseph’s put the heat on NISH in the final 2:03. Hodson hit a 3-pointer at the 2:03 mark that it 40-33. The teams traded baskets before Hodson made a layup off a steal to cut the NISH lead to 42-37.

The Redstickers were forced to foul. Two free throws by Kinard with 10.3 seconds left gave New Iberia just the breathing room it needed to clinch the win.