After a disastrous third quarter, a fourth-quarter rally came up short as the Benton Lady Tigers fell to the Warren Easton Fighting Eagles 64-54 in the semifinals of the Class 4A girls basketball playoffs at Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria on Tuesday afternoon.
District 1-4A champion and top seed Benton, which had no senior starters (two seniors on roster), finished 27-7. Fourth-seeded Warren Easton (24-8) will face the Neville-South Lafourche winner Friday night for the state title.
Benton led 23-21 at the half after holding Warren Easton to just five points in the second quarter. The Lady Tigers scored the first basket of the second half to go up four.
Nothing much went right for Benton after that the rest of the quarter. Taking advantage of misses and forcing turnovers, the Fighting Eagles went on a 16-0 run to take a 37-25 lead with 3:30 left.
Benton sophomore guard Qua Chambers, who picked up her third foul late in the second quarter and played most of the second half with four, ended the run with a 3-point play. The Lady Tigers cut the lead to seven, but the Fighting Eagles closed the quarter with a 9-2 run and led 46-32.
Benton wasn’t done though. Led by junior Emily Ward, who struggled offensively in the first three quarters, Benton twice cut the lead to six in the final 1:30.
The Lady Tigers twice had chances to get within four or three. The first time an errant pass resulted in a turnover. The second time Benton missed a couple of shots inside.
Warren Easton made its free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
Chambers led Benton with 15 points. Ward, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, and freshman guard Jada Anderson added 13 each. Sophomore guard Dana Wainwright scored 11.
Wainwright and Anderson scored eight each in the first half.
Guard Breanna Sutton led Warren Easton with 17 points. Kiana Anderson, a 6-foot forward, scored 14 and had numerous rebounds.
Guard Casey Harris, who hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter, added 13 points. Cabria Lewis scored eight points in the second half.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org