Sterlington 56, Union Parish 46
Playing in perhaps the final home game of their careers, Sterlington's three seniors took it upon themselves to carry the team on their shoulders.
Kaela Mullins, Jayla Stewart and Ashleigh Davis went for 16-15-15 points, respectively, in the Lady Panthers' 56-46 Senior Night victory over Union Parish.
"The seniors really stepped up tonight," Sterlington coach Caroline Oliphant said. "That was big. We needed to get back on track, especially with two tough road games coming up."
No doubt, it was a welcome turnaround for the Lady Panthers (17-13, 5-3), who came into Friday night mired in a season-long four-game losing skid.
"We didn't play well Tuesday night," Oliphant said, referring to Tuesday night's 68-57 homecourt loss to Wossman. "It was good to see them bounce back tonight. I was glad the seniors could put it all together on Senior Night."
Setting the tone from the opening tip, the senior trio accounted for the Lady Panthers' first 26 points.
Two Davis 3-pointers, sandwiched around Stewart's rebound bucket, staked the Lady Panthers to an early 8-2 lead.
The game was taking on the makings of a rout after the Lady Panthers made 5-of-6 free throws to go up by 11.
Ericka Gatson scored the final five points of the quarter on a free throw, a six-footer from the right baseline and a putback to bring the Lady Farmers within 13-7 at the end of the quarter.
Leading 17-11, the Lady Panthers pushed the lead back to 11. Stewart made the front end of a shooting foul, Mullins intercepted a pass on the defensive end and weaved between two defenders on the break, and Stewart drove for a layup to make it 22-11.
Sterlington went up by as many as 13 on three occasions before settling for a 32-21 halftime lead.
Keeping the pressure on, the Lady Panthers opened the second half with nine unanswered points.
Davis' transition layup and 3-pointer, followed by buckets from Michaela Waters and Mullins widened the gap to 41-21 early in the third quarter.
Sterlington's lead peaked at 22, 45-23, when Waters dribbled through the lane for a layup.
Receiving two baskets from Gatson, the Lady Farmers regrouped for an 8-2 run in the latter stages of the quarter. Still, the Lady Panthers carried a 49-34 cushion into the final eight minutes.
Bri Logan set up McKenzie Gray for an easy bucket to open the fourth quarter scoring, extending the difference to 17.
As it turned out, the Lady Panthers' lead may have been a little too comfortable for their own good.
"We got to thinking it was over a little prematurely," Oliphant said. "They jumped into a 1-3-1 and we had some bad turnovers, which they turned into points. We don't do a good job of watching the back side of a zone defense for some reason."
Three-pointers by Paschal and Shanyia Thomas on consecutive possessions narrowed the deficit to 51-40. Capping a 10-0 run, Thomas and Paschal converted steals into breakaway layups. Suddenly, the Lady Farmers were within seven, 51-44, with slightly under four minutes to play.
Davis answered with a corner 3 on the Lady Panthers' next offensive turn, pushing the spread back to 10.
Neither team scored on their next two possessions before Paschal and Stewart traded buckets to conclude the scoring.
Mullins scored 10 of her 16 points in the second quarter and was perfect on six free throw attempts to pace the Lady Panthers' scoring summary. Davis splashed home four 3-pointers while matching Stewart's season-high 15 points. Waters tallied six of her eight points in the third quarter and Gray added two.
Gatson was high scorer for the Lady Farmers (13-14, 2-6) with 17 points and Thomas added 10. Paschal accounted for all nine of her points in the second half, including seven in the fourth quarter. Ferguson added six with Malaysia Reynolds and Brenda Lighten chipping in two apiece.
Sterlington closes out the regular season next week with road trips to Madison on Tuesday and Richwood on Friday.
Union ............ 7 14 13 12—46
Sterlington .. 13 19 17 .. 7—56
UNION (13-14, 2-6) — Ericka Gatson 17, Shanyia Thomas 10, Jamiya Paschal 9, Makayla Ferguson 6, Malaysia Reynolds 2, Brenda Lighten 2.
STERLINGTON (17-13, 5-3) — Kaela Mullins 16, Jayla Stewart 15, Ashleigh Davis 15, Michaela Waters 8, McKenzie Gray 2.
Three-point goals — Union 3 (Thomas 2, Paschal 1), Sterlington 4 (Davis). Total fouls — Union 10, Sterlington 13. Free throw shooting — Union 3-7, Sterlington 10-12. Fouled out — none. Technicals — none.