UIL State 5A and 2A: Amarillo and Martin's Mill successfully state title crowns

Photo by Russell Wilburn

Martin’s Mill's dominant two-year run

Saturday had a theme of champions defending their crown.

Martin’s Mill did so in Class 2A knocking off a gutsy Grapeland team, 60-56, to complete a perfect 38-0 season. This was the third meeting between the two teams this season, but by far the most competitive with the previous two also going the Lady Mustangs’ way, but by an average of 23.5 points. Grapeland wasn't going to get routed on the big stage.

“It’s crazy to think about going undefeated on the season, there are so many good teams out there and so many teams are well-coached,” Martin’s Mill head coach Tommy Cross said. “It’s hard to play and not lose for 38 games.”

Martin’s Mill’s back-to-back was spearheaded by freshman Jada Celsur who put up a team-high 16 points and five rebounds, enough for her to be named game MVP. The Lady Mustangs are 76-1 over the last two seasons.

“I'm just always ready to play and playing for this school, I mean my sisters played for (Cross) and I’ve just been ready for it,” Celsur said when asked about the opportunity to contribute at such a high level in her first varsity season.

Grapeland struggled from the floor early and fell behind by 15 at one point and it looked as if Martin’s Mill would roll the Sandiettes again, but Grapeland battled back to tie it before halftime until a quick 8-0 for the Lady Mustangs gave them the lead heading into halftime.

Amarillo, Ashlyn Milton go back-to-back behind efficient offense

One thing the Sandies are known for is fluid offense and that was on full display Saturday inside the Alamodome when Amarillo successfully defended its 5A UIL state crown against Frisco Liberty, 47-42. But they had to go through another well-oiled machine of an offense to do it.

“That’s why each possession was so important because they’re such a well-coached team and a good basketball team,” said Amarillo head coach Jeff Williams about Frisco Liberty. “I feel like we’ve had a target on the back a little bit this year, just being the defending state champions.

"You have to be ready to play physical basketball and with kids like these three up here that can play physical basketball, that helps a lot."

While the Lady Hawks had incredibly efficient first and third quarters (71 percent and 66.7 percent shooting), it was Amarillo’s consistency led by back-to-back state MVP Ashlyn Milton that was the difference. Milton had 16 points and five rebounds in the win.

"All season long, we go against our JV and go against our own team and we're down and we got to figure out a way to come together and fix it," Milton said. "We go through it all seaosn long and it showed here."

Grapeland’s returning group

Despite falling to Martin’s Mill, Grapeland has a talented group coming back for 2019-20 to potentially make another run.

The game’s leading scorer Teira Jones, who is a one-man fastbreak often times, will be back as a junior along with starters Keaundra Harris and Kenya Woods            returning for their senior seasons. Though they’ll need to replace the tenacity of Hannah Chipman and shooting of Ragan Bowie, head coach Anthony DeCello has a lot to be excited about next season.

“I think we have some pretty good returning people,” DeCello said. “I think there’s plenty of upside with this group and they’ve been through it and finally made a regional tournament and then been to state, so I think the experience helps.”

Perhaps Grapeland’s most pivotal returner, Jones, was in foul trouble and taken out for pivotal stretches. She finished with a game-high 17 points.

“Not having an offensive presence down there, a post presence was tough,” DeCello said. “I just tried to buy clock and we tried to hit them on some quick backdoor plays and I thought the opportunities were there.”

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