The state's top ranked UIL 6A team is still alive for the season's ultimate prize. Duncanville outscored defending classification state champ Converse Judson in three of the four quarters of Friday's 45-36 UIL 6A state semifinal win at San Antonio's Alamodome.
Deja Kelly led the way with a team-high 13 points, but Hope LeMelle's nine points and Zaria Rufus' six-point and 10-rebound performance also extended the Pantherettes' 26th UIL state final four appearance.
"Absolutely [a] total team effort tonight," said Duncanville coach LaJeanna Howard. "Being that we're here at the state tournament, a couple of the girls were eyes wide, so we had to get scoring from everybody [and] we had to take a collective effort on defense."
Coach Howard understood the importance of playing Converse Judson before her team battles Cypress Creek in Saturday's UIL 6A state championship game. Duncanville got tested by Kierra Sanderlin, but also proved that it can slow down a top tier player. The Pantherettes limited her to 18 points on Friday after she scored 30 in her team's regional final win. Now, their defense turns its attention to Cypress Creek's Kyndall Hunter, who scored 31 in the classification's other state semifinal.
"They had a player," said Howard. "When you get an opportunity to play against a team that has a player, and then this next team has a player, you're able to prepare more for that player. You can make adjustments over night and say this is how you guard that girl."
Howard is now a victory away from winning Duncanville a state championship from three different roles. She has previously been a player and an assistant coach during two of the program's state championship seasons and could contribute another from the head coaching position.
"It means everything," said Howard. "To be able to have such a rich tradition...and have my hand on it at every level and to [possibly] bring this back to our city...would be amazing."
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