The history of girls’ basketball wasn’t much to write about in Mexia when its current seniors hit the high school campus as freshmen.
So they set about to change that.
Several of them were on the varsity squad as freshmen, and they and the team grew and improved each season to the point that as juniors they claimed the school’s first playoff victory in 24 years.
This year, the 11 seniors set out to make their final year even more special.
At the center of it was Brechelle Beachum, a versatile 5-foot-7 guard with the ability to beat opponents off the dribble and take them to the basket or with a soft shooting touch from long range.
“We played as a team, but even as team-oriented as we were, you have to have some leaders on your team,” Mexia coach Randy Barger said. “We knew Brechelle was going to be our leader even a couple years ago. There was no question she was going to be the leader of our basketball team this year. We had confidence in here, so we wanted her to have confidence in the fact that she was going to have to do that. It worked out for all of us.”
There’s no denying that. Not after Beachum and the Lady Cats brought home the school’s first-ever state championship.
Now she can add another award to her resume, as she’s been selected as the Super Centex Player of the Year.
“I wouldn’t trade my team for anything,” Beachum said. “Having this award now, I couldn’t have done it without my team.”
The championship vision was a reality for this group a long time ago.
As 11- and 12-year-olds, Mexia brought home a Little Dribblers national championship, and added two more more in the 13- and 14-year-old ranks.
So they knew they could win championships. They just had to prove it at the high school level.
But the road had a major bump in it by the name of the Fairfield Lady Eagles.
Mexia bumped off its main district rival twice during nondistrict tournaments, but Fairfield came back to sweep they district meetings in close, intense contests. Beachum, who averaged a team-best 17 points per game and went off for as much as 42 in a game, was held in check in both of those games, with 17 total points on 6-for-25 shooting.
When the playoffs started, they were undeniably on a collision course, and that meant a fifth meeting in the regional final.
This time, Beachum was ready. She knocked down a 3-pointer for the first points of the game, and that seemed to set the tone for herself and the game. She finished with 17 points to lift the Lady Cats to their first-ever state tournament berth with a 49-45 victory.
“After we beat Farifield, it cleared the runway for us,” Beachum said. “We knew we had a chance to win a state championship, and we just kept working harder and harder, every practice and every game and we just did it.”
Beachum went for 16 points, six steals and five rebounds in a 50-41 state semifinal win over Krum, and she was again a stat-sheet stuffer in the final with 14 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists. She then helped clinch the championship by going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, and Mexia limited Kennedale to 26 percent shooting in the second half to bring home the crown, 69-62.
Even weeks later, Beachum and some of her teammates can’t believe it’s real.
“It still hasn’t sunk in with some of us,” Beachum said. “I don’t think it’s really going to sink in until we get those rings.”
Reggie Davis Coach of the Year: Randy Barger, Mexia
Every time Mexia coach Randy Barger was asked how his team was going to handle a certain opponent, his answer was always simple.
“We’re going to do what we do,” was the basic idea.
For his Lady Cats, that meant playing with intensity for every second of the 32-minute contest and using its superior speed and immense depth to wear down opponents and put them over the top.
Mexia followed its coach’s instructions perfectly and carried out his game plan all the way to a 37-3 record and the school’s first-ever state championship.
“That didn’t just come this year,” Barger said. “When I started as head coach five years ago, I knew we were going to have athletes, and I knew the philosophy we were going to have to instill in our team was we were going to have to play with athletic ability and speed. So that’s the way we talked to them back then, and we never veered from that. That’s been our success.”
Part of the reason Mexia plays that way is it doesn’t have much size at all.
Nobody on the Lady Cats’ roster stands taller than 5-foot-8, but it’s hard to score against them with their swarming style that made it difficult to even get the ball across half court at times.
Mexia’s relentless nature showed one last time when Brechelle Beachum grabbed a steal after a Kennedale rebound with less than a half-minute left in the state championship game and essentially put it away.
The Lady Cats were undersized and possibly underdogs, but they always had the answer.
“I think we were underdogs, not just in that game but some of the other games,” Barger said. “We’re proud of the fact that our young ladies accomplished it and accomplished it together, and that’s a big deal. There’s no greater feeling than being on that floor with that feeling that you’ve won that game, and it’s a great accomplishment.”
Barger was selected over some other coaches whose teams had stellar seasons, such as Kristi Mize, who took China Spring to an outright District 17-3A title, while Ross Barber’s Waco High squad went unbeaten in 8-4A and was seconds away from a regional tournament berth.
Newcomer: La Vega’s Calveion Landrum
If there’s one position on a basketball court that’s not always great for a freshman, it’s point guard.
That’s a spot where a coach would usually prefer to have a player with experience orchestrating an offense and has a knack for getting her teammates involved.
La Vega coach Amy Gillum went with freshman Calveion Landrum running the point, and it turned out to be a smart choice.
Of course, Gillum knew Landrum wasn’t an average rookie.
“I knew the kid was good, but didn’t know she was going to be that good,” Gillum said. “I don’t think teams had an answer for her in any situation. She just never backed down. The great thing about her is she was more concerned about getting her team involved first. At any time could take over game, but she wanted to get everyone invovled.”
Landrum led the Lady Pirates with 16.3 points and also grabbed 7.3 rebounds to go with her 3.9 assists and 2.8 steals per game in showing off her all-around game.
She was picked as the District 17-3A Newcomer of the Year, and now she can add the title of Super Centex Newcomer of the Year.
Landrum, nicknamed “Juicy” by one of her parents because of her size as a baby, showed an unusual confidence for a freshman and Gillum hopes that will only grow as she matures as a player the next three years.
“She’s not afraid,” Gillum said. “She’ll go against anyone. She’d go up against Michael Jordan if she had to.”
Landrum was picked over some worthy candidates, such as 3A state championship game MVP Na’Teshia Owens of Mexia, who put together an impressive late-season run, as well as Coolidge’s Adrianna Jones, Frost’s Jae Moore and Waco High’s Areka Duffey.
Pos Player Class School
G Brechelle Beachum Sr Mexia
G Whitney Doyen Sr Bruceville-Eddy
G Ann-Marie Dunlap Jr Crawford
G Dianna Kirven So Coolidge
G Armoni Pittman Sr Waco High
G Kayleigh Ripley Sr McGregor
F Kyera Abram Sr Teague
F Ketara Chapel Sr Temple
F Kaymee Gooden Sr Mart
P Shamiya Blake Sr Waco High
P Briana Kirven Sr Coolidge
P Madison Williamson Sr Blum
Pos Player Class School
G Ariel Ballard Sr Mexia
G Summer Dolezel Sr Lorena
G Haley Guerrero Sr Teague
G Re’Elle Miller Sr China Spring
G Tiara Tatum Jr Fairfield
F Mandy Adams Jr Groesbeck
F Mollie Kinlaw Jr China Spring
F Tayla Taylor Jr Marlin
P Stormi Call Jr Bruceville-Eddy
P Jasmine Griffin Jr Fairfield
P Tyesha Taylor Jr Temple
Lexi Johnson, Abbott; Taylor Ligawa and Victoria Kuykendall, Chilton; Heather Clark and Marissa Martin, China Spring; Kaylee Jay, Rachael McFarland, Desery Navarro, Olivia Perez and Cari Rosenberg, Covington; Adrianna Jones, Coolidge; Jesslyn Poole, Jordan Villa and Ellen Whitney, Crawford; Kadee Bowling and Jae Moore, Frost; Erin DeGrate and Faith Dimerson, La Vega; Ashlyn Bell and Rachel Nicoletti, Lorena; Hailey Reineke, McGregor; Bre Stoner, Gabrielle Greer, Ashley Johnson and Na’Teshia Owens, Mexia; Claudia Escamilla and Hannah Villalovos, Morgan; Bailey Ashcraft, Haley Boyett, Reagan Jaro and Presley McKethan, Robinson; Caitlyn Collins and Alexandra Watson, Teague; Alyssa Jones and NiCosha Nelms, Temple; Areka Duffey, Waco High; Erika Brown, Taylor Landrum, Kelsey Leech and Sara Nieman, Whitney