Albany rallies past Lady Pios

Notre Dame’s Sam Lyons pulls up for a jumper over Albany’s MeMe Sykes (20) and Darilyn Rogers (22) Thursday during the Lady Pios’ 59-56 Class 3A quarterfinal loss to the Lady Hornets. (Photo by Christell Faul)

ALBANY – The Notre Dame Lady Pios came out swinging, but it was the Albany Hornets who delivered the decisive blow in a Class 3A quarterfinal contest Thursday evening.
Albany, which trailed by as many as 12 early on, rallied in the fourth quarter to slip away with a 59-56 victory over the Lady Pios in front of a standing-room only crowd at the Lady Hornets’ home gym.
The loss ended the season for the Lady Pios, who finished with a record of 26-5.
The Lady Hornets, meanwhile, improved to 28-6 on the season and they will take on No. 1 Ville Platte on Thursday at 6 p.m. in a semifinal contest at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“This was really one heck of a game; I mean it was epic,” said Notre Dame coach Nolan Theriot after the contest. “We were one possession, one shot, one less turnover away from winning the ball game and it’s tough to swallow.
“But you have to give credit to Albany because when we took one thing away, they went to something else and it worked.”
The Lady Pios had their chances late in the game after losing the lead for the first time with six minutes to go. They trailed by five (56-51) with under a minute to go when Alex Miller drained a 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining. Miller then turned around on the ensuing inbounds play and picked up a steal and a layup to knot the score at 56-56 seven seconds later.
After a free throw by Lauren Thompson gave the Lady Hornets a one-point advantage, the Lady Pios got the look they were looking for.
After working the ball around as the clock wound down, Sam Lyons got an open look at the top of the key with under 10 seconds remaining. Unfortunately the shot rimmed out and Albany was able to tie up the ball at midcourt with four seconds left and regained possession. Thompson then sank two more free throws to seal the victory.
“We had a great look right there and it was just one of those things where you’re thinking, man she’s going to bust it,” said Theriot. “You can’t ask for more: You have one of your best players with the ball at the top and the shot just didn’t go down.
“I’m just so proud of the kids for not giving up. I mean we’re in a hostile environment and we’re down five and we’re battling. We get a 3-pointer and then a steal and a layup... We’re right there.”
The loss, however, didn’t come down to that final shot.
The Lady Pios’ inability to stop Albany guard T’Keyah Garret in the second half, especially the fourth quarter, sparked the Lady Hornets’ run.
Garrett scored 11 of her 13 points in the final two frames on driving layups, including one as time expired in the third quarter that cut the Lady Pios’ lead to four (45-41). She then had back-to-back buckets to tie the score and take the lead for the first time at the 6:00 mark.
“I think the one thing that kind of stands out is Garret’s play in the second half,” said Theriot. “We held her in check for three quarters. We knew she had no perimeter game and her thing was driving and dishing. I’m just disappointed with the amount of points we gave up to her.”
Albany forward Danielle Brown scored seven of her 13 points in the second half as well and posed a big problem to the Lady Pios offensively with her mere presence in the paint.
“She (Brown) only had 13 points, but they were big points and it seemed like each time it was a momentum shifter,” said Theriot. “And, defensively, she is a huge body and huge shot blocker. With that huge presence, it’s hard to attack the basket.”
The Lady Pios didn’t have to attack the basket much early on thanks largely to Hanna Esthay. The junior guard canned a pair of 3-pointers and hit a mid-range jumper in the first quarter to help spark a 24-point outburst by Notre Dame.
“I knew Hanna definitely had the ability to fill up the bucket, but she had been sick and she hasn’t really been one of the people that are going to put up a bunch of shots every night,” said Theriot. “So I was really happy to see her knock down some shots. She was playing with a little pep in her step and you could tell she just had a lot of confidence.”
Madelyn LeJeune also scored eight points in the first quarter as the Lady Pios jumped out to a 24-12 advantage.
Esthay added four more points in the second quarter but Albany’s MeMe Sykes drained a pair of 3-pointers and Thompson hit two buckets to cut the lead to 32-24 at the half.
Brown scored the first four points of the third quarter and Albany continued to chip away before trimming the lead to 45-41 to set up the fourth quarter rally.
Esthay led the Pios with 14 points while Alex Miller had 11 before fouling out with 30 second left in the game. Lyons and LeJeune, who fouled out with just under three minutes remaining, each had 10 points, Gabbie Romero had nine and Elise LeBeouf finished with two.
Sykes scored a game-high 16 points for the Lady Hornets while Garret and Brown each pitched in 13. Darilyn Rogers added 10 points and Thompson finished with seven.
“We did everything we could to win the ballgame, we just fell short,” said Theriot. “But we had one heck of a season. We won 19 straight coming into tonight’s game; we won the district and we had just five losses.
“The kids just played really hard and they really believed in each other and I’m very proud of them. They really represented our school well and we, as coaches, couldn’t be prouder of what they have accomplished.”

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