In what many considered the most anticipated clash of star power in the state championships, everyone witnessed a defensive clinic.
Head coach Andrea Robinson’s DeSoto (28-2), littered with future collegiate talent, used every bit of their length and discipline to shut down arguably the two best players in the state in Cy Creek’s Rori Harmon and Kyndall Hunter.
The Eagles’ game plan was to face-guard and make easy looks hard to come by for the dynamic backcourt, primarily using their own star guard, Houston signee Kendall Brown, to frustrate defensively. Robinson’s team locked down and held the Cougars (32-1) to just 23.8 percent shooting from the floor to earn the program’s first-ever 6A girls state championship, 53-37.
“We knew if they were going to win that game, those two (Harmon and Hunter) had to put up good numbers,” Brown said. “We knew that if we shut them down, it’d be harder for them to come out with the win, so we did our job.”
The previously unbeaten Cougars headed into Thursday night’s clash having won every game by 12 points or more. Robinson credited the defensive effort on the Eagles’ gauntlet of a district and playoff schedule that included No. 2 South Grand Prairie, No. 3 Duncanville, No. 9 Allen, No. 12 Langham Creek, No. 13 Denton Guyer and No. 23 Cedar Hill.
“It allows us to be tested,” Robinson said. “We’ve been down, we’ve lost leads, we’ve just kind of been in every situation possible. Being in our district, and seeing the amount competition that we see, allows us to be tested for these moments.
“DeSoto’s been waiting a long time for this state championship and I’m so proud of these ladies for bringing this stuff home.”
The game started as many expected. Cy Creek jumped out to an early 12-6 lead. DeSoto shot just 2-for-15 in the opening period and were outrebounded by the smaller Cougars.
“We only made about one shot attempt, so we were telling our kids that we got to get on the boards, we got to get more than one shot attempt,” Robinson said.
The offensive board advantage rapidly swung in favor of the Eagles after that. DeSoto doubled-up Cy Creek 20-11 on the offensive glass for the game and that led to 10 second chance points. DeSoto’s Sa’Myah Smith recorded a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds and was named the game’s MVP. Brown finished with three steals and 12 points.
In the third quarter, there was a moment that summarized the night for both teams. Hunter, a quick-trigger shooter, seemingly had an open window from 3-point range. Cy Creek’s deficit ballooned to 10 and the Cougars needed a spark. But DeSoto’s Ayanna Thompson quickly recovered and swatted the attempt into the hands of Amina Muhammad. The athleticism and defensive prowess of DeSoto’s 6-footers were too much.
“These two can break any pressure all day, but when you have multiple kids at 6-foot-plus coming at them, it just makes it difficult for them,” Cy Creek head coach Jennifer Alexander said. “But they stuck to it and DeSoto played a great game.”
DeSoto also limited transition opportunities. Cy Creek, particularly Harmon, thrives in the open court, but the Eagles were quick to recover after losing the ball and forced Cy Creek to play mostly in half-court sets. Harmon and Hunter, two Texas signees, combined for 21 points. No other Cougar had more than four.