Published 12:00 am Friday, March 4, 2011



HAMMOND – In was a matchup of Loyola Prep’s size and strength and St. James’ quickness and speed, it was the shooting ability of the Wildcats that spelled a berth in the Class 3A championship game.

St. James hit nine 3-pointers, eight in the first half en route to a 68-48 rout of the Flyers in the state semifinals at the University Center at Southeastern, sending St. James on its way to play for a state championship today.

“We came out with a lot of confidence,” said St. James coach Justin Adams. “We played the game at the pace we wanted to play at. Us being aggressive, playing up tempo, it was a big key.

“We shot it well, and we hadn’t shot it very well in the last four games. Some of our players shoot better in a wide open gym atmosphere.”

The top seed in Class 3A, St. James will face Avoyelles tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Brandi Jeffery scored a game-high 28 points, including six 3-pointers. She also had nine of St. James’ 21 steals. Anika Duronslet scored 15 and grabbed nine rebounds. Markeisha Keller scored 13 for the Wildcats (26-8).

“It’s very exciting. I’ve wanted to play for the championship since the seventh grade,” said Jeffery. “Our seniors, (Jeffery, Duronslet and Keller) have been trying so hard for so long.”

St. James never trailed, leading from start to finish.

St. James led 15-7 in the second quarter when Loyola Prep (26-7) began to make a run. Jenny Naus got out in transition to make a layup, and a Morgan Rogers free throw made it 15-10. Rogers came up again with a bucket to make it 15-12, but Jeffery answered at the other end via a corner 3 to make it a six-point game.

Back-to-back buckets by Loyola’s Jasmin Anderson and Evandrielle Matthews made it 18-16.

But then came a barrage of Wildcat 3’s.

Jeffrey banked in a 3 from the wing, then measured another before pulling the trigger and splashing it through to make it 24-16. A Shakira Braxton 3-pointer made it 27-18, and a second from her made it 30-20. That 3-pointer ignited a 10-0 run – Braxton made a layup, Keller made a 3 and Duronslet converted a layup as the Wildcats overwhelmed the Flyers both defensively and offensively, building a 37-20 advantage. St. James led 39-24 at halftime.

“We knew we’d have to give up something,” said Loyola Prep coach Kyle Tanner. “They penetrate so well … we knew we had to get out on (Jeffery) and we left her open more than we’d like. It’s a tribute to her range.

The Wildcats forced 21 turnovers in the first half.

“That makes it hard to win,” said Loyola Prep coach Kyle Tanner.

Said Jeffery: “Defense is the key. That’s where your offense is going to come from.”

The Wildcats led by 16 entering the fourth quarter and were able to kill 1:23 to begin the period, keeping the ball on the perimeter and passing around until Adams called a time out. Duronslet scored the first bucket of the period to push the St. James lead back to 18, 58-40. The Flyers would get no closer than 14 the rest of the way.

Rogers and Anderson each scored 14 to lead Loyola Prep.

But too many times, Loyola’s size advantage was for no avail at the offensive end.

“You have to get to that end to get it inside,” said Tanner. “When they have so many takeaways, you can’t get into your offense.”

Said Adams: “(Rogers) had a heck of a game. We knew we had to limit her strength though. Get up and down and use all 94 feet.”

St. James forced 35 Flyer turnovers, negating the fact that the bigger Loyola Prep team outrebounded the Wildcats, 35-20.

“It was about what we expected,” said Tanner. “St. James is so good with pressuring you, extending out. We knew they’d be quick. And they were physical.”