University High’s Kennedy Aldridge delivers despite injury

University High's Kennedy Aldridge delivers despite injury
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University High’s Kennedy Aldridge didn’t appear to be the candidate for the leading role.

Aldridge, a game-time decision because of an ankle injury, broke a 42-42 deadlock with a contested 15-footer with two minutes left. She scored seven of her team’s final points in a 8-0 run to lead No. 4 University past No. 9 St. Thomas Aquinas 50-42 in Monday’s LHSAA girls state basketball tournament at Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center in Hammond.

“I just felt like I needed to help myself kind of get my confidence back,” said Aldridge, who was 4 of 13 from the field until igniting her team’s final surge. “I said I was going to shoot the ball because I knew it was going to go in and I did that.”

University (24-11) advances to its first state championship game since 2017 at 6 p.m. Friday against District 6-3A arch-rival, No. 2 Parkview Baptist, which took a 65-49 victory over Menard.

“I think we’re hungry,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “We haven’t been here (state tournament) in four years. These girls have worked hard. These girls have taken their bumps and bruises early on when they were younger. Now they kind of get it.”

Aldridge engineered her team’s pivotal run over the last two minutes after St. Thomas Aquinas (14-14), playing in front of a partisan crowd, tied the game at 42-42 with on Payton Rowbatham’s breakaway layup.

U-High later drew a charge against Rowbatham following Alridge’s jumper and continued to stretch its lead on Alridge’s drive to the goal with a minute to go. The Cubs forced their 20th turnover, which led to Ryli Martin’s free throw, but the Cubs turned it into a three-point trip on Aldridge’s putback of a missed free throw.

She added a free throw with 13.2 points and finished with 15 points, four rebounds and a team-high five steals. Taylor Lee scored 12 of her team-high 17 points during a pivotal second quarter, matching Gracie Coates with seven rebounds, to go with two blocks and two steals.

U-High, which dug itself out of a 16-5 first-quarter deficit, outscored St. Thomas Aquinas 19-11 in the second quarter behind the play of Lee and a defense that accounted for 13 of their 26 points off turnovers and trailed 27-24 at halftime.

“I can’t ask for any more from them,” Johnson said. “This is their first time here and I think we showed up pretty good.”

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About Marc Lemoine 1847 Articles
Marc is an Economist and a well experienced weightlifter who has won many championships. He intends to build a bright career in the media industry as well. He is a sports freak who loves to cover the latest news on sports, finance and economy.

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