Lady Pioneers capture fourth consecutive crown


MANSFIELD – It wasn’t exactly easy – but after all, no one expected winning four straight state championships would be a breeze.

The North Central Texas Academy girls basketball squad earned its fourth consecutive Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Class A state title Saturday, finishing 22-5 in their first season under head coach Jodie Stevens.

The Lady Pioneers edged Plainview Christian 44-42 Friday in the semifinals at Mansfield High School before knocking off Fredericksburg Heritage School, 61-43, Saturday in the championship game at Timberview High School, 61-43. The TAPPS tournament, for Class A through Class 5A boys and girls schools, was held Friday and Saturday, scattered at all five Mansfield ISD high schools.

Stevens had coached the previous four seasons at Sidney, and three at Gustine before that. An additional challenge came from the fact that the Lady Pioneers had lost four starters from last year’s state championship team, including three who graduated.

“It’s just phenomenal,” Stevens said. “We’re extremely excited, and we’re so happy for the girls because they worked so hard. No one really thought we were going to make it very far. But we had high expectations.”

NCTA post Carolina Bianchi, a senior from Brazil, notched 59 points and 16 rebounds in the two games, including 33 in the championship game Saturday. Teammates Esther Udonsi added 18 points and Jenny Chen scored eight.

Bianchi was named the girls tournament’s most valuable player, and Udonsi and Chen also made all-tournament.

“It seems like a miracle,” Udonsi, a junior point guard from Nigeria, said of the championship. “I’m just so overwhelmed.”

It was the third state championship for Chen, a senior guard from Taiwan.

“It was a lot of fun and a lot of pressure,” said Chen, who played the season with a torn ligament in her left knee after hurting it late last season. “I’m just so happy. I’m so glad to be playing this year. We play as a team, play as a family.”

Stevens also praised the efforts of the two freshmen who played starting roles – Sophie Schultz and Emily Bloyd.

“The biggest thing that helped us at the state tournament was my two freshmen stepped up,” Stevens said. “They were fired up and played hard.”

The matchup with Fredericksburg Heritage School (19-5) was competitive early, and included four lead changes in the first quarter. NCTA built a 28-20 halftime lead, and was on top by 17 (46-29), at the close of the third quarter.

The Lady Pioneers extended their lead to 22 (53-31) by the 5:03 mark in the fourth quarter although Heritage trimmed the final deficit to 18 with a last-second 3-point basket.

In the tight victory over Plainview Christian Academy (13-12), Bianchi scored a game-high 26 points.

Plainview played the Lady Pioneers tough, holding the lead for most of the second quarter and taking a 39-38 advantage with 3:22 left in the game on a 3-point bucket.

Stevens said that during a timeout against Plainview, she told two of her players, “don’t look defeated.”

NCTA outscored Plainview 6-3 after that, with Bianchi sinking four of four free throw attempts in the final nine seconds. She made 12 of her 15 free throws in the game.

“They were exhausted this game,” Stevens said after the Plainview win, which she described as “Just pure joy. They just didn’t have much left for this game. They overcame it, with help from the good Lord.

“Tonight, people were praying for them constantly. I honestly feel like we didn’t win this game on our own.”

The Lady Pioneers had previously won two state titles with coach Tammy Evans (2011-12) and last season with Emily Britt. Evans is now at Arlington Grace Prep and Britt is at Granbury.

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Girls basketball

TAPPS Class A State Tournament


Plainview Chr. 7 12 6 17 – 42

NCTA 5 19 8 12 – 44

NCTA (22-5) scoring – Carolina Bianchi 26, Esther Udonsi 10, Jenny Chenn 6, Emily Bloyd 2.

NCTA free throws – 12-15.

NCTA 3-pointers – Udonsi 2.

NCTA rebounding leaders – Bianchi 9, Sophie Schultz 6.

NCTA assists leader – Chinn 2.

NCTA steals leader – Udonsi 3.


NCTA 12 16 18 15 – 61

Heritage School 10 10 9 14 – 43

NCTA (23-5) scorers – Carolina Bianchi 33, Esther Udonsi 18, Jenny Chinn 8, Sophie Schultz 2.

NCTA Free throws – 13-17.

NCTA 3-pointers – Udonsi 2.

NCTA rebounding leaders – Bianchi 7, Schultz 6, Emily Bloyd 6, Udonsi 6.

NCTA assists leader – Udonsi 6.

NCTA steals leader – Udonsi 3.