1A Final: Ackerly Sands 60, Robert Lee 33
In one of the most aggressive and impressive defensive displays you’ll see in a state championship, Sands capped off a dream season capturing its first state title 60-33 over Robert Lee.
The Lady Mustangs actually shot a lower percentage from the floor than Lee, but it was Sands’ perimeter defense, led by Game MVP Elysa Martinez and her 10 steals, that forced 36 turnovers from the Steers. The turnover discrepancy created over 30 more shot attempts for Ben Connell’s team that spearheaded the win.
“For these past state games, (Connell) wanted us to push the ball and that’s all we got to do to beat them, get buckets in transition and come back on defense,” Martinez said. “That’s really all I can say. I got two leaders right here. They help me, I help them, we all help each other.”
After a slow shooting start that saw senior star Landry Morrow struggle from the field early on, Sands never trailed again following the midway point of the first period.
“They were a little tight and then they just settled in and started focusing on their defense,” Connell said. “Sometimes you get a little frustrated with our shooting, but they just tightened up the defense and started causing turnovers.
“Eventually the engine will warm up like a car and it’ll get going.”
Top-ranked Sands completed a run in which they knocked off No. 3 Huckabay and No. 2 Nazareth in the span of a week to then top No. 4 Robert Lee.
3A Final: Fairfield 60, Winnsboro 54
Fairfield knows it should probably be celebrating a three-peat. Which is why this win was so satisfying.
“All year they’ve known that this was the expectation and they’ve handled that pressure to get back to this point and fight today to win,” Fairfield head coach Sally Whitaker said.
Last year Fairfield, a heavy favorite, lost the 3A state title to Brownsfield in overtime. This time, they faced another challenge in Winnsboro that presented a unique threat of their own – post Faith Acker.
Acker finished with an impressive stat line of 24 points and 19 rebounds. But the always synchronized Lady Eagles were able to match her by committee. McKinna Brackens, Breyunna Dowell and Jarahle Daniels combined for 47 and the team stayed under double digit turnovers.
When it came to defending Acker, Fairfield tried fronting, helping off the back, but in the end, head coach Sally Whitaker knew that shutting the star post down was an impossible task.
“If you can stop her a few times then you’re in the positive,” Whitaker said. “You just got to know a player like that is going to score.”
Although the Eagles never trailed after the end of the first half, they couldn’t put the Lady Raiders away. Sally Whitaker’s team only stretched the deficit to double digits late in the fourth period and even then, the free throw line kept them from celebrating too hard. Fairfield shot just 5-of-17 from the line in the final period.
"Because we were missing them, I knew we needed to rebound on the other end, and we couldn’t let them shoot a three on the other end. But I don’t know what it was with the free throws, why we were missing so many.”
Dowell, the game’s MVP, finished with 20 points and six boards and five steals with no turnovers.