No words were needed to explain how Marlin felt about its first state berth.
The tears of joy streaming down the face of Mystique Womack told the entire story.
Womack scored 37 points and assisted on a key three-point play by Aniya Williams with less than a minute to go, as the Lady Bulldogs fought off a late Grandview charge to win the Class 3A Region III title, 59-54, on Saturday at Midway High School.
“I’m very excited. I can’t explain it,” Womack said. “I’m just happy, and I’m just ready to get there and aim to get the ring. … It feels good bringing our whole community together. It feels so good seeing everybody here to support us. It means so much to the girls and the coaches.”
Marlin coach Lawrence Gullette said that the Lady Bulldogs will draw Vanderbilt Industrial as their semifinal opponent, 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Williams scored nine of her 11 points in the second half and added 10 rebounds for the Lady Bulldogs, who led by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter before Grandview made one last push.
Whether it was Marlin’s inexperience and nerves, the Lady Zebras’ desperation or a combination, the Lady Bulldogs spent most of the last few minutes out of sorts. Marlin was rushing shots, turning the ball over and not getting out to Grandview shooters on the defensive end.
All of that resulted in a 12-0 Lady Zebra run that brought them within one at 45-44, and they got that close on two other occasions as well.
“(I was telling them) stay composed, keep your composure,” Marlin coach Lawrence Gullette said. “Take care of the ball, keep your composure, remember what we do and do it to the best of your ability. These are young kids, so they have to mature a little bit. Nerves and everything, watching the clock, and Grandview does that to teams. They make you get away from what you like to do. They forced us to do some uncharacteristic things at the end.”
Each time, Womack and Marlin had an answer. Womack drilled a step-back 3-pointer, made 1 of 3 free throws after being fouled on a trey attempt, then used a Euro step to get into the paint for a scoop layup. The last time, after Grandview made it a 51-50 game, Womack drove in and found Williams open under the basket for a layup and foul that was the key play in putting the game away.
“(Womack’s) the heart and soul of the team. She might score a lot, but believe it or not, she’s one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever seen,” Gullette said. “She’s one of the best players in the state of Texas. Our girls feed off her energy, and they step up to the plate and help her out.”
Carrie Sullivan led Grandview with 11 points, and Crosbi Jentsch added 10.
Womack scored with a variety of moves to the basket and with a lightning-quick release on her jump shot from beyond the arc. But it was her first basket that was the most unique.
Two minutes into the game, Womack went to the floor to go after a loose ball. She gained possession in a prone position under the basket, then sat up and let the shot fly. It went in, and a Marlin team that had missed its first two jump shots badly seemed to loosen up.
“That got me going,” Womack said. “Then when I came down and hit (my next) shot, I just felt it.”
Grandview only scored one two-point basket in the first half, but three 3-pointers and seven free throws kept the game from getting out of hand. It also stifled Marlin’s transition game in the second quarter, but that changed quickly in the third.
That’s when Marlin went on a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 41-27, and the trip to San Antonio began to go from dream to reality.
“It means a lot for our children and our community. You see all of Marlin came out,” Gullette said. “I told our young ladies, being in Waco is like a home game for us. I used little things like telling them there’s a big M on that court. That stands for Marlin. It’s destiny. It feels great.”
Martin’s Mill 64, Hamilton 44
McKINNEY – Top-ranked Martin’s Mill proved too tough a hill for Hamilton to overcome.
The Lady Mustangs (38-1) advanced to their 13th state tournament in school history by ending the Lady Dogs’ run in the Region II-2A final on Saturday at McKinney Boyd High School. Despite the 20-point defeat, Hamilton (29-8) actually played Martin’s Mill closer than any opponent since the Lady Mustangs had a 13-point win over Tenaha in December.
The Lady Dogs slowed the pace and worked the ball inside through the first quarter, but Hamilton suffered through a scoreless drought of 4:40 to start the second quarter and could never trim the gap any closer than seven points.
Briley Moon’s game-high 17 points paced four Martin’s Mill players in double figures. For the Lady Dogs, Kali Stroud had 12 and Trinity Haile added 11, but the two combined for just two points in the second half.
Temple 60, Crosby 40
HOUSTON – The eighth-ranked Tem-Cats are headed to the program’s first-ever state tournament.
Temple (30-5) scored 12 of the game’s 14 points to take control, and maintained a solid lead of more than 20 points for most of the second half. Crosby, a state semifinalist from last year, couldn’t keep pace in the Region III-5A title game at Delmar Field House.
Temple was making its fifth regional tournament appearance, but first since 1997. The Tem-Cats will learn of their state tournament foe on Sunday, but they’ll play at either 7 or 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the Class 5A state semifinals at the Alamodome in San Antonio.