SAN ANTONIO – The stage wasn’t too big for the Fairfield Lady Eagles.
Fairfield used an efficient inside attack to wear down Dallas Lincoln as the Lady Eagles won, 76-51, in the Class 4A State Semifinals on Friday afternoon at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Fairfield (34-4) moves on to the state championship game to face Argyle at 7 p.m. Saturday, with hopes of claiming the program’s first-ever state title.
While Lincoln (26-9) ineffectively tried to punish Fairfield with its perimeter shooting, the Lady Eagles stuck to what’s worked for them all year. They worked the ball inside, either on drives from slick senior guard Jada Clark or on entry passes to their talented cadre of posts. Fairfield outscored Lincoln, 44-22, in the paint for the game.
Clark was particularly brilliant, weaving her way to a game-high 23 points. She shot 10 of 16 from the floor and also chipped in four rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Once it adjusted to Lincoln’s swarming pressure defense, Fairfield found its rhythm. Fairfield led throughout the game, as Lincoln couldn’t find the range on its outside shot and the Lady Eagles continued to exploit the Lady Tigers inside. They closed the first quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 21-13 lead, after a pair of McKinna Brackens buckets in the paint and a deft jumper from Clark.
“That was our focus all week. We knew they had an aggressive defense, but once we adjusted to it we attacked and went and scored,” Fairfield coach Sally Whitaker said. “We knew there would be a period where we struggled, but we had talked about it all week: Just keep playing.”
Fairfield held a nine-point edge at 36-27 at the half before going for the kill in the second half. They increased the gap to 18 by the end of the third quarter, passing nicely to set up easy baskets at the cup. Fairfield shot 53.6 percent for the second half, and 51.8 percent for the game.
Lincoln, meanwhile, connected on only 26.3 percent of its shots and couldn’t ever find the range from distance. The Lady Tigers hit 6 of 36 from beyond the 3-point arc, a woeful 17 percent.
Breyunna Dowell gave Lincoln fits in the post, as she scored 15 points to go with 16 rebounds, four assists and two steals. But she was one of three Fairfield players to record double-doubles, as Braden Bossier had 15 points and 10 boards while Brackens collected 10 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
JaMya Maryland topped Lincoln with 17 points, but hit just 7 of 21 from the floor. Nakia Brumley added 13 points on 6-of-23 shooting.
The win was Fairfield’s first state tournament victory in school history, as the Lady Eagles fell in the semifinals in their only other state appearance in the 2010-11 season. Lincoln, meanwhile, was playing in its 15th state tournament.
Whitaker said the Lady Eagles didn’t take any special measure of glee over beating such a tradition-rich program, as any win at state is a good one.
“Any state win we’ll take, I don’t care who it is,” she said. “Obviously if you look at the program, you see a lot of numbers next to their name and just two next to ours. But these girls are determined to do what they’re going to do. I’m proud of any win, whoever we beat, and if we don’t win I’ll still be proud, because these girls have done everything they’ve set out to do and I’m proud of them.”