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|Tensas Parish in finals|
Steve McClatchy was part of a state championship football team as a senior at Huntington High in 1971.
It's taken a little longer in another role in another sport to be playing for another title, but the wait has been well worth it.
McClatchy's Tensas Parish Lady Panthers defeated West St. John 63-54 Saturday at Louisiana-Monroe in the Class 1A semifinal contest to advance to the state championship game Thursday at 2 p.m. against LA New Tech, formally known as Plain Dealing before consolidation last year.
"It's exciting," said McClatchy, who coached at Huntington. "It's taken 30 years to get this close. There's been a lot of time and effort. These girls are really special."
Tip-off for the contest is 2 p.m. at Louisiana Tech's Thomas Assembly Center.
Tensas had a goal of getting back to this point a year after losing to then Plain Dealing in the 2011 semis. Now, they will meet them again next week in Ruston for the 1A championship.
Forward Helena Hill scored 17 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, while point guard Cheynne South added 11 points, six rebounds and seven steals.
Uncharacteristic of their 32-1 season, Tensas had more turnovers than takeaways on Saturday, and that defensive effort kept the Lady Rams within striking distance as they trailed by just 61-54 with 50 seconds remaining.
"Several times it looked like we had a run going," McClatchey said. "Then you look up, and we have a turnover and it stops all our momentum. You have to give (West St. John) credit. They are a good team."
McClatchy said the community of Tensas Parish has been every supportive and were very vocal in the semifinal contest.
"It is a real close community in Tensas," McClatchey said. "A lot of them played on championship teams, and sometimes I think they get more excited about the games than our kids do."
McClatchy said LA New Tech dominated the boards in last year's contest.
"They are very tall with three players at least 5-foot-9 and a post player at 5-foot-11 who has long arms and can jump real well. We have to do a good job of blocking her out. Their junior guard has been outstanding for two years. She is a real fast dribbler and hurt us last year by going past us and going in for a layup. We are going to have to put pressure on the perimeter."
McClatchy said playing in the final four last year has helped this year.
"We came out for practice before the semifinal game and the girls were not worried about the size of the building," McClatchy said. "And we got to see LA New Tech play Thursday so we're going in a little better prepared. We have to contain their guard and be dominant on the boards. We're looking forward to the challenge."
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