— By GREG WEBB
AUSTIN — Though down by 10 points with its only senior, as well as its starting center, out of the game in the final minute, Brock showed no signs of panic in the Class 2A girls basketball final at the Frank Irwin Center in Austin on Saturday.
A full-court pressing defense and another level of hustle resulted in the Lady Eagles trimming the Wall Lady Hawks’ lead to just a basket with 12 second remaining before falling just short, 48-44.
Wall’s Maddi Chitsey, the game’s MVP, put the game away with a pair of successful free throws as Brock was forced to foul in the final seconds.
Brock, who fell behind quickly in the title contest, spent the rest of the game cutting the Lady Hawks’ lead, only to see it swell again. Wall had a trio of big players who invaded the paint time and again, and Brock’s defense was hamstrung by halftime.
“We didn’t get off to a very good start and that hurt us,” said Brock head coach Chance Westmoreland. “We got in foul trouble early and Wall had a lot of size.
“We spent a good part of the game with Lexie (Ducat) in foul trouble and matching up with their six-footer became a challenge for us.”
Despite the ebb and flow of the scoring, the Lady Hawks had an answer every time Brock made a run at them.
“I’ve got to give Wall a lot of credit,” Westmoreland said, “because when they got ahead we would come back and cut it to three or so, they would make a huge play and we were playing catch-up, again. They hit their free throws and just made some good plays throughout the game.
“But we were down by 10 points with 45 seconds left in the game and came back to get within two, so our girls had a lot of fight at the end,” said the Brock coach. “These are the hardest working girls I have ever coached and they showed it today.”
Rachel Harrell’s timely threes were responsible for a couple of the comebacks to tighten the match. Harrell led the scoring with 15 points. Rachel Williams added 10 points.
In Friday’s semifinal, respective strategies surfaced early. Brock’s game plan prevailed in spades, with the Lady Eagles roughing up Franklin with a 78-38 final count.
The Lady Lions poured all their defensive resources into trying to keep Brock from its half-court game, aggressively pressing in the back court. The Lady Eagles tried to neutralize Franklin’s long-range shooters, going out to the perimeter to inhibit open looks.
Brock’s approach proved more effective, not only limiting successful 3-point shots, but reducing the number of attempts the Lady Lions had been used to during the season.
Offensively, Brock struggled in early possessions and ceded forced turnovers to Franklin. But less than a minute into the contest, the Lady Eagles took the lead, which lasted for the duration of the game.
“We turned the ball over 15 times in the first quarter, which is a bit uncharacteristic for us,” Westmoreland said. “But we also kept them from scoring after the turnovers, which was key for us.
“We finally started taking care of the ball and had that big second quarter and were OK after that.”
Brock sought to utilize its height advantage and the ploy worked repeatedly as Ducat was fed the ball by her teammates at the low post time and again. Ducat led the scoring in the match, with 18 points.
The intense inside focus by the Lady Eagles eventually loosened up the Franklin interior defense, giving Brock’s perimeter shooters more inviting shots from long range. Rachel Williams and Rachel Harrell hit a combined 10 of 15 field goals, with a three each. Spelling Ducat at the post, Madi Mayfield was also in double figures with 10 points.
Still within seven at the end of the first quarter, Franklin’s bid to knock off the defending state champs faded in the subsequent stanza as Brock put together a 30-8 run lasting the span of the second period. The Lady Eagles continued to control the game through the third. In the final quarter, Westmoreland inserted his JV and freshman player into the fray for mop-up duty, as well as providing some big-stage experience.
Brock’s season ends with a 35-3 record. The Lady Eagles had won five consecutive state championships and have eight overall in the trophy cabinet.