For Howard & Kelly, Latest Duncanville State Championship Means A Little Bit More
It didn't matter if Duncanville faced Cypress Creek star Rori Harmon in Saturday's UIL 6A girls basketball state championship game. The Pantherettes were on a mission to top their 26th UIL state final four appearance with their 11th state title in the sport.
Harmon, who missed Friday's state semifinal against McKinney because she broke a team rule, was also not available for Saturday's title game. Duncanville's motivated coaching staff and players definitely took advantage and rolled to a 63-47 victory at San Antonio's Alamodome.
"That one was for my mother," said Duncanville coach LaJeanna Howard. "I started this journey. I came down here last year and I started it for her when she passed away and I finished it this year in my first year where she sacrificed and made sure that I had a great education at Duncanville. To be able to finish it right here at home is amazing."
Donna Howard, who passed away on September 14th, 2018, may have missed the day when her daughter was announced as Duncanville's head coach on April 24th, 2019, but LaJeanna Howard still made sure to include her in the journey.
Along with this, Howard was competing to win Duncanville a state championship as the program's head coach. She pulled it off, so now she owns state crowns from three different Pantherette roles: basketball player, assistant coach and head coach.
"It's a totally different drive when you're in the driver's seat," Howard said of how her latest run compares to the others. "Making decisions and instilling values in girls and you're the head of it. To be able to push these girls day in and day out, keep them motivated, even through some of our district play that wasn't as strong, it's a time where you as the coach have to step up and you have to say, 'girls, we can do this'."
In terms of how the game actually played out. Duncanville battled with Cypress Creek early and only led 34-30 with 6:38 left in the third quarter. But, the Pantherettes turned on the gas and pulled away in the final quarter and a half of the game. One of the players they turned to was VYPE Player of the Game Deja Kelly, who finished with a team-high 23 points. She transferred from San Antonio Johnson before the 2018-2019 season, so she'll remember this homecoming performance for years to come.
"Extremely special," said Kelly. "Some of my friends from Johnson came to support me tonight. I still love them. But, to win it in San Antonio is just a different type of feeling."
Duncanville also got 13 points from Tristen Taylor and 12 from Zaria Rufus, while Cypress Creek was led in scoring by Kyndall Hunter's game-high 24 points.
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