Teams of today, tomorrow make history together
Mount Carmel’s and Ursuline’s basketball teams made history last week by becoming the first all-girls’ schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans to win state basketball championships in the same year.
The Cubs once again proved to be the team of today as they defeated Denham Springs, 59-48, for the Class 5A championship on March 4, marking the second time in three years they claimed the top prize. Their margin of victory over five playoff opponents averaged nearly 18 points per game.
Ursuline established itself as the team of tomorrow by winning its first Class 4A championship on March 5. With a starting lineup stocked with three sophomores, a freshman and an eighth grader, the Lions rolled over the No. 6 seed Rayne, 61-48.
Dual state championships in this sport had never been achieved. Just twice before did local all-girls’ Catholic schools make the Top 28 tournament together.
The first time was in 2004 when Cabrini defeated Glen Oaks for the 4A crown, while Dominican lost to West Monroe in the finals.
More recently, in 2009, Archbishop Chapelle won its only basketball title by beating Lafayette, 47-25. Ursuline, which advanced to the semifinals, was eliminated by eventual Class 3A champion Capitol, 55-45.
Crowded trophy case
After presenting the Class 5A state championship photo to a jubilant Mount Carmel basketball team, Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Director Eddie Bonine strode over to the school’s president.
In typical Bonine jest, he told her, “Well, Sister (Camille Anne Campbell), you have now won the state volleyball, the state soccer and state basketball championships this year. I may have to investigate you.”
The Mount Carmel legendary educator replied that he would be welcomed at the school anytime to inspect the enrollment records.
Mount Carmel already has a trophy case that has reached critical mass in state championship hardware. Athletic Director Joe Boudoin will have to squeeze another trophy in the crowded showcase.
As she had been when Mount Carmel won the 2015 Class 5A volleyball title in November, senior guard Kristen Nuss was chosen as the Most Valuable Player by the attending media. She ends her prep career, which she culminated by scoring 20 points and dishing off nine assists in the championship game, as a contributing member of five state championship teams.
While many had anticipated a return match between the No. 2 seed Cubs and No. 1 Mandeville, which defeated MCA, 55-49, in December, Denham Springs nixed that consideration by eliminating the Lady Skippers in the semifinal round.
How good were the Cubs? Consider this: Natchitoches Central defeated Destrehan, which eliminated the Cubs in the 2015 quarterfinals, 77-67. Mount Carmel beat Natchitoches Central by 20 in the semis on March 1.
Nuss was the key factor in the championship run, but the outside-inside attack produced the outcome.
Hot outside shooting by Paige Franckiewicz and Megan Donaldson forced playoff opponents to spread their defenses in an effort to limit three-point baskets.
When they did, Nuss and company would make them pay by feeding the ball inside to 6-0 Lauren Bodino and 6-2 Ellie Holzman for easy bankers.
Mount Carmel has been a playoff contender for two decades, and the Lakeview school has gotten there under guidance of numerous coaches; most recently three coaches in three years.
But Jamie Thomatis, an Ursuline alum, appears to be a fixture at Mount Carmel, unless colleges come calling for her talents.
Young Lions roared
Watching Ursuline’s dazzling running offense, it’s mindboggling to realize that this team should be a dynamo in Class 4A for another two seasons at least.
Head coach Andrea Williams and a staff that has drawn the full ability out of a group of young players put together a team that posted a 27-6 record.
Ursuline has made either the Class 3A or 4A playoff field each of the last 10 years. As noted, the Lions advanced to the 3A semis as a No. 2 seed in 2009. They were also a No. 2 seed in 2008, but lost out in the quarterfinal round.
Basketball color analyst Dick Vitale would consider the team (in his unique descriptive way) as “Diaper Dandies.” That wouldn’t be far from the truth.
The elder statesmen on the starting five are sophomores Kourtney Weber, Brooklyn Mitchell and Giordin Johnson. The center is a 6-2 freshman, Kennedi Jackson, and the power forward a 5-10 eighth grader, Kierston Nelson. The only sub Williams called upon during contested games was senior Allison Ulrich, who was a capable “sixth man.”
Weber, Mitchell and Johnson are guards whose ball-handling skills are excellent. Each wants the ball in her hands when opponents apply defensive pressure.
Weber has been the leader, although the two other sophomores have equal command of the game.
But it was Weber who earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Top 28 tournament. She scored 20 points and had eight rebounds in the Lions’ 58-50 semifinal round win over Edna Karr and topped that with 29 points and nine rebounds in the championship game against Rayne.
As a No. 8 seed, Ursuline defeated three teams ranked higher, including No. 1 St. Thomas More, 59-55, in the quarterfinal round.
The Lions defeated No. 4 Karr, 58-50, and No. 6 Rayne, which had lost just one game all season, 61-48.
And winning that first state basketball championship is just for starters.