AUSTIN — Most teams come to state hoping they can win.
But the Midway Pantherettes made the 90-mile trip to Austin knowing they were going to win and proved themselves right by claiming the Class 4A championship with a convincing 50-27 victory over top-ranked Mansfield Timberview on Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center.
It was Midway’s seventh state championship in school history and first since 1994.
“We had some unfinished business from last year,” Midway coach Teri Morrison said. “There were some things they wanted to do as far as reaching some goals. On the first day of practice we talked about what we needed to do as a team, and that was our focus all season.”
Championship game MVP Cokie Reed dominated the action on the inside for the Pantherettes (35-4), finishing with 17 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and also added three assists.
“We came down here thinking this was ours from the beginning,” Reed said. “We just executed our game plan well and came away with the victory.”
Reed, a University of Texas signee who will play her home games at the Erwin Center next season, was given plenty of respect by Timberview coach Candi Harvey.
“She’s highly skilled,” Harvey said. “She’s a post-player clinic. Watch the way she positions herself on the block. She’s got great hands and has multiple moves, and she also has the ability to kick the ball back out. She was a little more today than we could handle as a team. I bet the UT coaches can’t wait to get ahold of her.”
While Reed, the only Pantherette to score in double figures, took care of things on the offensive end, Midway’s defense was the biggest story. Timberview only found the range with 11 of its 63 shots (17.5 percent) and turned the ball over 26 times.
The Pantherettes held the Wolves (35-4) scoreless for more than six minutes spanning the first and second quarters and went on a 14-0 run that turned a 9-all tie into a 23-9 Midway lead.
Timberview then turned around in the third quarter with only two points, which came with 48 seconds on the clock. That resulted in a 16-0 Midway spurt, which extended a 26-15 halftime edge to a 42-17, and the rout was on.
“It was so much fun,” said Midway’s 5-foot-2 senior floor general Krissica “Spoon” Harper. “I’ve always waited for this moment, and the coaches had us so prepared for this. Before the game, (Morrison) told us to go out and have fun. I was so nervous before the game, and then after I was thinking, ‘Why was I so nervous?’ It was so natural for us to go out there and win.”
On a day in which DeLisa Gross and Makenzie Robertson scored eight points apiece, about half of their season average, sophomore Toi Gober picked up the slack.
Gober scored nine straight points — her total for the game — during the Pantherettes’ big first-half run, taking advantage of the Timberview defense’s focus on Reed for three backside layups, twice off of pinpoint passes from Harper, and one on a nice feed inside from Reed.
Gober then capped her personal run by chasing down a length-of-the-floor pass from Reed and made a nice adjustment to lay the ball in, making it 23-9 with 4:27 left in the first half.
“(Toi) made a lot of great athletic moves taking them off the dribble,” Morrison said. “We knew coming in we were going to get some backside layups and drives because of Cokie and where their help was coming from. Spoon read that very well and found her. Toi stepped up big for us and that’s huge. She’s going to be the next big player here to do some big things for us.”
The Wolves got a glimmer of hope a minute later when Reed picked up her second foul and went to the bench. They took advantage, attacking the basket for a pair of layups to get back within 10, 23-13.
“When they started to come back on us, we just settled down and played our system,” Gross said. “That’s what got us into the playoffs, through the regionals and all the way to a state title.”
But they never got within single digits as Harper made a free throw and Diana Jones scored off of a steal to push the lead right back to 13.
It was Reed and Robertson who did the honors of putting the title under wraps.
Robertson, who was scoreless in the first half, buried two 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the third quarter, and Reed scored 10 points during a 16-0 spurt that drove the Pantherettes’ margin to 25 — the largest of the game.
When asked after the game whether they were surprised by the margin of victory, Harper, Reed and Gross answered in unison — “No.”
“The margin of victory is that we broke down what our opponents do well and then we try to stop that,” Morrison added. “Then we focus on what we do well, and they have to stop us. It’s a great combination. You’re only as good as the players you have, and right now I have the best players in the state of Texas.”