Christian Life hands FHS girls playoff exit

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 28, 2003

BATON ROUGE &045; With more than a thousand arms and fingers in a raucous Christian Life gymnasium, there was not enough laying on of hands to exorcise the demons for the Ferriday Lady Trojans Thursday.

As busloads of Lady Trojan fans chomped at the bit to get through the front doors the entire first half, Ferriday (32-1) could not exact revenge on a Lady Crusader team that showed it the exit last season from the state semifinals.

Using 2 defenders to repeatedly switch off wherever Monique Jones went, CLA (34-3) limited the star Trojan to 13 points and Ferriday did not get the production it needed from its role players in a 57-44 defeat from the quarterfinal round of the Class 2A playoffs.

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&uot;It hurts so bad to come this close again and to not come out on top,&uot; Lady Trojan head coach Lisa Abron said. &uot;And to lose to this same team (CLA) makes it even harder to swallow. It seemed like we wanted this one more than ever tonight.&uot;

The energy circulating in the CLA gym throughout the hotly contested war could have lit Baton Rouge and Concordia Parish up for weeks.

The Lady Trojans chanted battle cries during pre-game stretches, as Christian Life fans’ took notice and barked right back with their own hymn of the school’s initials: &uot;C-L-A, C-L-A, C-L-A.&uot;

Ferriday, who never led the entire game, found itself down six heading into the fourth period when a last gasp effort from LaShawnda Pryor, who led the Trojans with 15 points, clanged off the wedge between the rim and the backboard at the close of the third.

The Lady Crusaders, who like Ferriday could not get their star player Jami Montagnino on track, went inside to open the fourth and got three quick points from leading scorer Kirsten Roberson to push out to a 39-30 lead with 6:42 to play.

&uot;Everyone played up when Jami wasn’t hitting on her shots,&uot; said Kelley Alford, who finished with 11 points. &uot;But even though she wasn’t scoring, Jami contributed in other ways for us. That’s what makes this team so balanced.&uot;

The Lady Trojans trimmed the margin to five, 43-38, on four straight free throws from Jones and Pryor with 4:38 left.

But a 9-0 run capped off by a Roberson putback off a missed free throw gave CLA its biggest lead of the night at that point, 52-38, with 2:13 left to seal the Lady Trojans’ dismaying fate for a second straight year.

&uot;That first half (Ferriday) really had us confused on offense,&uot; CLA head coach Robert Dallimore said. &uot;We didn’t know what defense they were running and my girls were so freaked out they wouldn’t run what I was calling out.&uot;

Everybody in the gym rose to their feet as the final horn sounded before the opening tip. Songs of Trojans and Crusaders echoed up the metal bleachers, off the cinder walls and hovered above the maroon and gray court.

The game was actually delayed temporarily as school officials and city deputies attempted hopelessly to squeeze agitated spectators outside into the gym.

&uot;The crowd may have affected us a little bit, but for the most part it was a lot of mental breakdowns on our part,&uot; Abron said. &uot;We didn’t stay focus and come through when we needed to. If you can’t knock down the shot, you might as well hang it up.&uot;

The Lady Trojans took time to settle into the volatile surroundings. Ferriday had good looks at the basket to start the game, but its shots were off and the Lady Trojans let the distractions rattle them with turnovers.

An Alford 3-pointer with just less than two minutes to play in the first period staked the Lady Crusaders out to a 6-point lead, 10-4.

Ferriday’s first field goal of the game came a minute later with 50.2 seconds left when RaShonda Leonard dropped in two points to cut its deficit to five, 11-6.

&uot;In the first half (Ferriday) was killing us on the glass, which kept them in it,&uot; Dallimore said. &uot;Defensively in the second half we limited them to many fewer second shots.&uot;

Christian Life denied Jones the ball in the second by flip-flopping two defenders, Roberson and Montagnino. The Baylor University commitment’s first field goal of the night came on a trey with 5:38 left before the break to cut the deficit to five, 16-11.

The Lady Crusaders didn’t let the Ferriday full-court press get to them, though, as they carved up the defense for easy buckets to the 6-foot-4 wide-body Ashlee Norwood.

A long ball from Montagnino with 4:28 left before intermission pushed the CLA lead out to seven, 20-13. It was half of the 6 points the Tulane commitment registered on the night. A minute later the Lady Trojans were within three on Jones’ second field goal, 20-17.

It looked as though the lead might stay at a 3-point margin when Pryor hit a jumper off a CLA turnover from the press. Jones put up a half-court shot as the buzzer went off that clanged off the back iron, but was called for a charge and gave Montagnino a one-and-one, which she hit the front end for a 25-21 halftime lead.

&uot;We just beat ourselves too many times tonight and you can’t do that if you want to move on,&uot; Abron said. &uot;(CLA) did a lot of things offensively that kept us frustrated. My seniors had a great four years here at Ferriday and I wish them a lot of luck. We’ll just go out and try to find some players for next year.&uot;