Florien’s last run under Dwain Strother ends in state semifinals

Another sensational season for the Florien High School Lady Black Cats basketball program ended one game too soon on Monday when another Louisiana small school girls powerhouse, Hathaway, prevailed 47-41 in the state semifinals.

The Division V semifinal was played in Hammond at the University Center on the opening day of the 2023 Ochsner’s LHSAA Marsh Madness Girls Basketball Tournament.

It was the end of an era, not only for the Florien senior class, but for the community as it was the final game in a 39-season coaching career that is second to none in Louisiana girls basketball history. Dwain Strother coached his last game and finishes with well over 1,200 victories at Florien, just two less that he and everyone else in Sabine Parish hoped to see.

Hathaway (30-4) took the lead for good late in the second quarter, but never had control. The Ladycats stayed within range throughout the second half and down the stretch closed in, first drawing within three and then getting the deficit to 40-39 with 3:08 remaining on a layup by Latoya Holmes.

But that’s when the Hathaway defense made the difference. Florien did not score for the next three minutes. Ten seconds after Holmes’ basket, Sienna Guidry hit a 3-pointer for Hathaway, starting a game-ending 7-2 run. Florien’s defense was stout as well, but the Ladycats just could not get the ball in the basket.

A big difference came at the free throw line. Florien got there only six times and made just two. Hathaway was 10 of 12 on free throws, including 5 of 7 in the fourth quarter. Another key stat was turnovers, with 19 by Florien and just nine for Hathaway.

Florien hit 35 percent of its shots from the floor to just 25 for Hathaway, but the winners sank seven 3-pointers (7 of an amazing 36 attempts behind the arc).

The Ladycats had a 44-36 rebounding advantage, largely on the back of 22 by J’Nasura Richardson, who also led Florien in scoring with 15 points and made a game-best five steals. Holmes scored 11 and Lilly Sparks added seven points, while other Florien scoring came from Gracie Rutherford (5), Lehr Turner (2) and Marleigh Sparks (1).

The Ladycats got to the state tournament by drubbing Simsboro 73-41 in the first round, then beating Phoenix 54-40 in the second round and winning a thriller on the road last Thursday in Bienville Parish, 53-52 over second-seeded Gibsland-Coleman.

Florien, seeded sixth in the 28-team tournament, finished with a 29-3 record at the close of another highly successful season.

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