It will be No. 1 vs. No. 2 for the Class 5A state championship Friday night at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls’ Marsh Madness state tournament at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
The No. 2 seed Benton Lady Tigers (28-5) face the top-seeded Ouachita Parish Lady Lions (32-6). Tip-off is scheduled for 8 o’clock.
For the second game in a row, the Lady Tigers will be playing a team they know something about.
In the semifinals, Benton defeated District 1-5A rival Natchitoches Central 63-39.
The Lady Tigers faced District 2 champion Ouachita Parish twice in the regular season.
Benton won 57-50 in the Battle on the Hardwood Classic on Nov. 22, the Lady Tigers’ second game of the season.
Ouachita Parish won 62-52 on Dec. 14 in the finals of the Benton tournament.
Benton is playing for a state championship for the second straight year. Last year, the Lady Tigers fell to Warren Easton 58-49 in the Class 4A title game.
This is Benton’s fourth trip to the finals. In 1978, the Lady Tigers lost to Hanson 38-36 in the 1A title game. In 1997, they fell to Albany 85-63 in the Class 3A championship game.
Ouachita Parish has won eight state girls basketball titles, but the last one was in 1953.
Benton carries a 13-game winning streak into the game. The Lady Tigers haven’t been challenged in the playoffs. Their average margin of victory is 28.5 points per game.
Benton defeated No. 31 New Iberia 66-31 in the first round, No. 18 Barbe 70-46 in the second, No. 7 Hahnville 76-45 in the quarterfinals and No. 19 Natchitoches Central.
Ouachita Parish has won 10 in a row. The Lady Lions have had to battle in their four playoff games.
They defeated No. 32 Airline 67-51 in the first round, No. 16 Terrebonne 56-49 in the second, No. 25 Northshore 62-58 in the quarterfinals and No. 5 Ponchatoula 64-60 in overtime in the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Ouachita Parish survived a game-tying 3-pointer with 3 seconds left that sent the game into OT.
Benton is led by senior guard Qua Chambers and junior guard Jada Anderson.
Chambers is averaging 23.5 points in four playoff games. Anderson is averaging 17.5.
Ouachita Parish features 6-footer Lafaedria Green. The Lady Lions have plenty of other offensive threats, though.
In the second meeting between the teams, Tia Perry led Ouachita Parish with 15 while Cambria Hargrave and Skylar Buie had 13 each. The Lady Lions built a big lead and led 47-30 after three quarters.
Chambers led Benton with 32.
Ouachita Parish split with Parkway during the regular season, a team Benton swept in two close games.
The Lady Lions’ other losses were to Class 3A finalist Mansfield, Division III finalist St. Thomas Aquinas and Ponchatoula. Of course, they avenged the latter in the semifinals.
Benton’s success hasn’t been due to Chambers and Anderson only.
Freshman Marissa Schoth, sophomore Jada Stewart and senior Alisa Harris, all starters, have also made significant contributions along with the the Lady Tigers’ bench.
Forward Makaila Antwine and guard Riley Grace Stanford played 13 and 11 minutes, respectively, against Natchitoches Central. Guard Claire Ambrose played nine.
Benton’s roster also includes Kennedy Stevens, Maddy Ryan, Markayla Clark, Tate Sellers, Kate Evans and Anna Robins.