Before there was overwhelming joy, there was restlessness for Ouachita Christian head coach Stan Humphries.
The feeling brought him back to his playing days as a professional quarterback.
"It was almost like when I would play those Monday Night Football games," Humphries said. "It was so hard to just sit around and wait. And that's what we were doing. Just sitting around and waiting on a 2:30 game."
Sitting around at the hotel, with an hour to go before loading up and taking the bus ride to the arena, Humphries heard his girls in the lobby.
"I've got 16 girls sitting there in the lobby playing cards and giggling, and then they went on the court and did what they did? It put me at ease a bit," Humphries said.
One year after losing its perfect record in a state championship game loss, the No. 1 Ouachita Christian Lady Eagles planted its flag as best in the state with a Division IV State Championship victory.
The Lady Eagles defeated No. 2 Highland Baptist, 61-40, to finish the season with a 29-2 overall record.
"I told the girls in the locker room after the game that I've won National Championships at Northeast (ULM) and I've played in two Super Bowls. But besides coaching my daughters when we went to the state semifinals, this is probably the happiest I've been doing something in sports," Humphries said.
OCS' head coach couldn't stop bragging on his bunch. Humphries laid out the game plan, and his team executed it exactly how he wanted. OCS took control of the game in the second quarter, and despite a Highland Baptist run to end the half, the Lady Eagles kept a pace that eventually wore down their opponent.
The Lady Eagles opened the third quarter with an 11-2 run that all but sealed OCS’ championship fate. The Lady Eagles’ press created easy scoring opportunities, and OCS continued to knock down shots to lead 41-22.
"We've been a pretty good shooting team overall this year," Humphries said. "The other day we had a shooting drill and we made 18 in a row, rotating girls. I think being able to play in that big arena Monday helped too. The one thing I was worried about was you have all of those emotions Monday, then you go to school the next morning and come to practice before hitting the road again. I could sense they were tired at practice, so we went for about an hour."
The tactic worked, as OCS seemed to have fresher legs than Highland Baptist. Avery Hopkins had a knack for making a few of those jump shots to thwart any runs Highland Baptist attempted. Hopkins joined teammates Conleigh Laseter and Emery Wirtz in double figures with 13 points in the quarter. OCS was an efficient 7-of-13 from the field in the third quarter to take a 47-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
OCS finished strong in the fourth quarter, and Wirtz led the Lady Eagles with 17 points in the victory.
The game swung heavily in OCS’ direction in the second quarter. OCS forced Highland Baptist into turnovers in the period, and Laseter continued her hot start with 11 first-half points for the Lady Eagles. OCS opened the quarter with a 13-2 run to extend its lead to 28-12. The Lady Bears turned the ball over 11 times in the half, and OCS dominated the boards with a +9 Advantage.
Highland Baptist desperately needed something positive to happen and an 8-2 run to finish the quarter kept the score respectable going into the locker room. OCS took a 30-20 halftime lead.
The outside shots were falling early for OCS early on. Hopkins, Wirtz and Laseter made shots around the perimeter in the early goings of the first quarter to set the tone. Highlight Baptist made their shots count in the paint, as OCS led Highland Baptist in a 9-8 contest. Laseter hit her second triple of the quarter to extend OCS’ lead, as both teams engaged in a highly efficient first quarter.
The Lady Eagles carried a 15-10 advantage into the second quarter after going 3-for-5 from 3-point range in the quarter.
OCS went 64-3 in the last two seasons, and the Class of 2021 won 127 of 152 career games.
With a minute left, Humphries subbed out his three remaining seniors on the court. The hugs along the bench were well worth all the sweat and tears that were poured into transforming OCS into a dominant girls program.
"I just think about the hard work. Emery Wirtz had two knee surgery and Emily Branch had a back surgery. I mean, I just think about all the work they've all put into this. Just to go through all of that and have this moment with them, I really loved seeing it for them," Humphries said.