— By GREG WEBB
AUSTIN — Brock’s defense eventually wore down Merkel and the Lady Eagles won the Class 2A girls high school state basketball title, 40-32, at the Frank Erwin Center.
The title was the program’s fifth straight, a record for Class 2A, and eighth overall. Lady Eagles senior transfer guard Braylee Flaska was named the title game’s most valuable player after registering a game-high 16 points to go with six rebounds.
The post players for both teams traded the first points to begin the scoring. Both teams had imposing paint presence, but the center of attention spread quickly to other regions of the half-court games, as the Lady Eagles (35-5) and Lady Badgers traded offensive punches over the next three periods.
Tied at the end of the first, then second quarters, and separated by a mere two points at the end of the third, it was Brock’s defense once again providing the difference, as it had done throughout its 2012-13 campaign. The pressure finally broke the back of the Merkel offense, which could muster just a handful of points in the final stanza as Brock widened its lead en route to a 40-32 win — and a fifth-consecutive Class 2A state title.
It was only the second loss of the season for Merkel, which finished with a 38-2 record.
Knotted at 16 coming out of the half, senior Taylor Wallace hit a three-pointer 10 seconds in, providing the final lead change of the contest, though the outcome would remain in question for another quarter and a half. In the final period, the Lady Eagles grew the lead to 11 when Flaska hit a jumper at 2:45. The key provided a productive haven for Flaska during the game, who took advantage of the soft spot in the Lady Badgers’ defense as it presented itself.
With the margin stuck at four for more than three minutes down the final stretch, another Flaska jumper helped extend the advantage, and sophomore guard Rachel Williams drained a shot from beyond the arc, giving the Lady Eagles an insurmountable nine-point advantage.
“I put [Rachel] out there for defensive purposes,” said Brock head coach Chance Westmoreland, “and the first time she gets a shot, she hits the three. We were all happy to see that because it gave us the separation we needed.”
Friday’s semifinal, pitting Brock against Region II champ Centerville, got off to an unusually slow start scoring-wise as both offenses looked for vulnerabilities in their first look at opposing defenders and missed long-range attempts. Five and a half minutes in, Centerville had a 4-0 lead courtesy of a pair of successful jumpers, and the Lady Eagles had yet to find the hoop.
Cora Jenkins’ layup with 2:31 left in the opening quarter marked the early turning point that affected the rest of the match, as Brock owned the scoring for the next eight minutes of play with a 15-0 run, lasting until just two minutes were left before the half. Jenkins would finish the game as the top scorer for Brock, with 13 points, and the Lady Eagles won handily, 42-23.
With the Lady Eagles solving Centerville’s defense from the perimeter as well in the paint, the Lady Tigers could not boast the same, as the first-quarter lead change was the only one in the game. Brock’s defense limited its semifinal opponent to just two points, those coming from free throws.
An 11-point lead out of the locker room prompted a methodical play catch around the perimeter half-court game from the Lady Eagles in the third period, but the slowed pace was a temporary one. Westmoreland platooned his guards for fresh legs as the activity up and down the court increased, taxing the starting five for Centerville, particular its post player.
The effective Brock ‘D’ remained so throughout the contest, and the offense cashed in, scoring 18 points off of turnovers, alone. Open looks were hard to come by for the Lady Tigers, who finished the with a shooting efficiency less than 30 percent.
Westmoreland has led the Brock girls to the last two championships, with Argyle’s Skip Townsend at the helm for the first three crowns of the string.