“We finally got ’em.”
Those were Mashayla Cecil’s first words after Paul Laurence Dunbar defeated Lafayette, 65-56, in the finals of the 43rd District girls’ basketball tournament Friday night at Lexington Christian Academy.
It was Dunbar’s first victory in the district finals since 2012 and ended Lafayette’s five-year district championship streak. Both teams earned berths to next week’s 11th Region tournament by virtue of reaching the finals. Dunbar will play the runner-up from the 41st, 42nd or 44th districts while Lafayette will play the winner of one of those tournaments. The regional draw will be held Saturday morning.
Cecil, a Miss Basketball finalist, finished with a game-high 26 points and was named MVP of the tournament. She went 11-for-11 from the free-throw line and also had six rebounds and two assists for the Bulldogs.
Dunbar was a slight favorite according to the latest Cantrall Ratings but Lafayette had beaten the Bulldogs twice this season and in four of the last five district-title games.
“This is the first time I’ve won a championship since middle school. I’ve always been a runner-up,” Cecil said. “It’s my senior year, I was like, ‘I have to do it,’ and I couldn’t have done it without my team. It was a good win.”
Cecil scored 18 points in the second half. An outlet pass to her from senior Peyton Humphreys capped a 13-4 run to begin the third quarter that pushed a five-point halftime lead to 14.
Freshman Elise Ellison-Coons scored nine of her 15 points in the second half and finished with a game-high 11 rebounds for Dunbar. She said at halftime the Bulldogs talked about doubling down on the defensive mindset that helped them build an advantage.
“We kept saying ‘16 minutes,’” Cecil said. “We knew this team was gonna come back and play hard. They weren’t going to give up. So we just had to putting our foot on their throat and keep going.”
Dunbar held Lafayette senior Caroline Bennett, the Generals’ leading scorer, to five points on 1-for-4 shooting.
“Shoutout to Cheyenne Fullwood,” Cecil said with a big grin. “It was our game plan to put a chaser on her cause she is a really talented player, so we just did what we did and Cheyenne played really good defense on her.”
Terri Abram led the Generals with 18 points. Lindi DeBilzan had 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Lafayette.
Paul Laurence Dunbar 65, Lafayette 56
Paul Laurence Dunbar (18-12) — Tanaya Cecil 3, Elise Ellison-Coons 15, Peyton Humpreys 10, Mashayla Cecil 26, Cheyenne Fullwood 7, Janae Stevenson 4
Lafayette (21-14) — Tionna Sanford 4, Lindi DeBilzan 16, Anaya Brown 2, Caroline Bennett 5, Terri Abram 18, Tekiya Garr-Carter 10, Rylie Grantz 1
Paul Laurence Dunbar