HAMMOND — Fifth-seeded Rayville High was a relative unknown going into its Class 3A girls basketball semifinal game.
But the Monroe-area team used balance to topple top-seeded Albany High 78-56 Thursday night at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s The Advocate/Southeast Regional Tournament at SLU’s University Center.
“I did not expect it,” first-year Rayville coach Amber Obaze-Ford said of her team’s domination that included a 27-point third-quarter lead. “I had some players who really stepped up and played well and utilized the opportunities we had.”
La’Dencia Johnson scored 23 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead five double-figures scorers for the winners. With the victory, Rayville (25-5) advances to play the winner of the other 3A semifinal between Baker and Abbeville to be played Friday in Lake Charles. In a Class 1A semifinal at the same site, West St. John defeated Central Catholic of Morgan City 66-58.
Albany simply had no answer for Rayville’s 6-foot Johnson in the first half. Johnson made 8 of 11 first-half shots and scored 18 in the opening half.
Victoria Wilson (20), Thomasina Minor (12), Arielle Richardson (12) and Andreanna Jackson (10) were Rayville’s other double-digit scorers.
Albany (26-9) got a game-high 28 points and 17 rebounds from Danielle Keith. Shelby Stewart added 11 for AHS, located just a few miles from the SLU arena. Thursday’s three-game session attracted 2,556 fans.
“We just ran into a buzz saw tonight,” Albany coach Justin Adams said. “We didn’t quit, but you only have so much gas left in the tank. We didn’t do the little things at time we needed to do that lead to big things.”
Neither team shot particularly well to start the game. Rayville made 39.4 percent of its first-half shots (13-of-33). AHS made just 20.8 percent of its shots from the field (5-of-24) in the opening half. Free-throw shooting was also an issue for Albany, which made 15-of-34 free throws.
The Livingston Parish-based team didn’t score until the 2:31 mark of the first quarter but managed to get within two, at 11-9, when Stewart converted a three-point play with 25 seconds left.
Wilson’s 3-pointer nine seconds later sent Rayville into the second quarter with a 14-9 lead.
Rayville went on a 17-4 run in the second quarter to take a 34-18 halftime lead.
Johnson scored 11 points in the run, including three consecutive baskets. Albany had cut the Rayville lead to 17-14 on free throws by Keith and Nyeshia Harris with 4:28 left half.
The third quarter offered more of the same. Rayville scored 11 of the first 15 points in the second half. By the time Johnson scored on a layup with 5:04 left, Rayville’s lead had swelled to 23 points, 45-22. The lead grew to 27.
Albany charged back with the help of Keith, who scored nine third-quarter points as the No. 1 seed got back to within 17, 55-38.
AHS chipped away at the lead, getting it down 57-47 on Elizabeth Sykes’s layup. But Rayville answered the challenge.
WEST ST. JOHN 66, CENTRAL CATHOLIC-MORGAN CITY: West St. John High’s Jalyn Gordon scored 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Rams to a win over Central Catholic-Morgan City in a Class 1A girls semifinal.
No. 1-seeded West St. John (31-1) advances to the 1A title game next weekend in Monroe. Central Catholic (26-8) was led by Randi Brown, who scored 24 in the game played at SLU’s University Center.
“At the beginning of the year we set some goals and one of them was to get to the championship game,” West St. John coach Lester Smith said. “We had to work very hard to prove we belong in the championship game.
“We wanted to come out and take good shots and take control of the game.”
With the win, West St. John advances to play the winner of the other semifinal between North Central and Vermilion Catholic that will be played Friday in Lake Charles.
Maya Trench had 13 points and nine assists, while JaJuan Nicholas added 12 points for the Rams. Meo Knight, who had 20 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, was another key contributor for fourth-seeded CCMC.
Gordon, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette signee, scored six points in the first half. She also sank eight free throws in the fourth period as Central Catholic could get no closer than eight. The Rams built a 15-point lead at 43-28 in the third quarter on a 7-0 run with Trench’s pair of field goals and Nicholas’ three-point basket.
West St. John built its biggest lead of the first half at 29-17 on Mychelle Lumar’s free throw with 2:06 left in the second quarter.
Central Catholic used two inside baskets by Makalaya McDaniel and Megan Landry to cut the lead to 29-21 before the two teams traded Gordon’s turn-around field goal and Landry’s two free throws for a 31-23 halftime score.
Gordon scored 14 points in the first quarter as West St. John built a 17-6 lead with 2:17 left. McDaniel’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 17-12, but Gordon hit her fourth 3-pointer of the quarter, and Donesia Bell rebounded a miss and put it in for a 22-12 lead the Rams continued to build on.