Lady Pioneers storm back for third title in a row

March 6, 2013

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MANSFIELD – Emily Britt didn’t have big lecture for her basketball team, just a simple message before the start of the fourth quarter of their state final against Selma River City Believers Saturday.

“I told them you either have to give me everything you have or we don’t win this game,” said Britt, who pulled off the rare feat of winning a state title in her first season as a head coach.

At the time the North Central Texas Lady Pioneers trailed by eight points to the underdog Lady Soldiers. They responded by going on an 18-3 run for a 35-28 victory at Mansfield Summit High School.

It resulted in a third consecutive Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Class A state championship for the Lady Pioneers (26-3).

“We knew what was at stake, and we just took it,” said senior forward Sara Etherington. “When Cynthia (Rivas) hit that big shot, as soon as that happened, we said ‘it’s ours.’”

Rivas hit the Lady Pioneers’ only 3-pointer of the game with 3:22 to play. It put them up 31-26.

“I could see it in their faces,” said Lady Pioneers senior forward Shelby Lyle. “They were tired, and we had legs. Coach trains us like crazy.”

Britt said she could also see something in her own team’s faces in that final quarter during a timeout.

“I could see it in every one of their eyes. We were not going to lose,” she said.

Rivas, a sophomore center, led NCTA (formerly Happy Hill) with a double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds). Lyle added 10 points and six boards.

Lyle left the game for a short while early in the third quarter when she hit her head on the court following a collision with a River City player. She returned a short while later.

“I asked her if she was okay, and told her this wasn’t worth her health,” said Britt. “She said she was, so I told her to get back in and get in the press.”

Lyle, Rivas and Etherington were named to the All-State Tournament Team.

The Lady Soldiers (19-14), while shooting just 25 percent (8-for-32) through the first three quarters, capitalized on the Lady Pioneers’ even worse day (7-for-38, 18 percent) to carry a 25-17 lead into the final quarter.

In the fourth, however, the Lady Pioneers shot a blistering 67 percent (8-for-12) compared to 13 percent (1-for-8) for River City. They also clamped down on Lady Soldier Emily Mumme, holding her to three points.

Mumme finished with a game-high 21 points, 11 of which came in the third quarter.

“We never thought we weren’t going to win, even though we weren’t playing very well,” said Lyle.

Britt said the fourth quarter was simply champions doing what they had to do.

“Like I’ve said all season, we never give up,” she said.

SEMIFINALS

NCTA 37, WF NOTRE DAME 30

Before they had to rally to defeat River City, the Lady Pioneers had to defeat Notre Dame for a third time this season. And while they had topped them by 18 and 17 points in district, it took a big play by a player off the bench to preserve the third win.

Senior Melissa Rivera’s steal stymied a Notre Dame rally that would have trimmed the NCTA lead to three points. From there, the Lady Pioneers hit five of seven free throws to keep the Lady Knights (19-11) at bay.

“She hadn’t played since eighth grade, but she comes in and gives me what I need, that two or three minutes of energy, a burst,” said Britt. “That steal changed the momentum.”

Lyle led NCTA with 16 points.

Once again the Lady Pioneers overcame sub-par shooting (12-for-51, 24 percent) by forcing 23 turnovers.

Notre Dame had closed to within 28-26 entering the final quarter.

“It’s really tough beating a team three times,” said junior guard Jenni Chen. “I was shaking before the game, but then we settled down and did what we had to do.”

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TAPPS Girls Class A State Tournament

Semifinals

WF Notre Dame 6 12 5 7 – 30

N. Central Tx. 9 13 6 9 – 37

Notre Dame (19-11) scoring – Michelle Fisher 13, Jennifer Ozier 11, Denica Palomo 2, Rebecca Shine 2, Elizabeth Fantini 2.

NCTA (25-3) scoring – Shelby Lyle 16, Cynthia Rivas 8, Sara Etherington 7, Anna Strickland 2, Jenni Chen 2, Melissa Rivera 2.

3-pointers – NCTA 1-12 (Lyle), ND-2.

Rebounds – NCTA 29 (Rivas 9, Etherington 8, Lyle 5), Notre Dame 30.

2-pointers – NCTA 11-39, ND 12-35.

Free throws – NCTA 12-20, ND 6-14.

Turnovers – NCTA 16, ND 23 (Chen 5 steals, Rivas 3 steals).

Championship

NCTA 2 10 5 18 – 35

River City 6 5 14 3 – 28

NCTA (26-3) scoring – Rivas 15, Lyle 10, Etherington 6, Chen 4.

River City (19-14) scoring – Emily Mumme 21, Michelle Cottingham 4, Sara Capps 3.

3-pointers – NCTA 1-13 (Rivas), RC 1-10 (Capps).

Rebounds – NCTA 36 (Rivas 13, Etherington 7, Lyle 6, Strickland 5), RC 28 (Mumme 11).

2-pointers – NCTA 14-37, RC 8-30.

Free throws – NCTA 4-8, RC 9-11.

Turnovers – NCTA 17, RC 21.

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