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Photo by VYPE Media's Bradley Collier.
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."
VYPE Player of the Game Deja Kelly’s 23pts led Duncanville to 63-47 UIL 6A state championship win against Cypress C… https://t.co/LnBwILYM0v — VYPE DFW (@VYPE DFW)
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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After falling 41-34 to Canyon in the 2015-2016 UIL 5A state championship game and 47-42 to Amarillo in the 2018-2019 UIL 5A state title game, Frisco Liberty finally earned its first season-ending championship in program history. The Redhawks surprised College Station 44-41 in Thursday's state semifinal and San Antonio Veterans Memorial 35-26 in Saturday's state title game to grab the 2019-2020 crown.
The first quarter of runs began with Frisco Liberty's early 6-2 start, but San Antonio Veterans Memorial ended the opening frame with the final nine. The Patriots were led by Texas A&M signee Sahara Jones because she scored eight of her game-high 15 points during this time and her first three-pointer gave her team its first lead at 8-6.
But, Frisco Liberty stormed back with its defense. The Redhawks only allowed two, five and eight points to San Antonio Veterans Memorial in the next three quarters. That allowed them to take the lead by halftime and start pulling away in the second half.
"It takes a mental fortitude [and] it takes competitive stamina," Frisco Liberty coach Ross Reedy said of his players' defense. "In a game of this magnitude, it's easy to get wide eyed, but I think they were composed."
VYPE Player of the Game Jazzy Owens-Barnett helped wrap up Frisco Liberty's state championship victory. She recorded five points on a pair of made field goals and a successful free throw attempt in the first three quarters before executing on seven of nine free throw attempts and another field goal in a nine-point final period. She finished with a team-high 14 points.
"It's bittersweet," said Owens-Barnett. "I'm so happy for the win and I'm super excited, but I want another one. I feel kinda greedy, so I'm ready to get back in the gym, get home and get to work."
VYPE Player of the Game Jazzy Owens-Barnett scored 9/14 points in 4Q of Frisco Liberty’s 35-26 UIL 5A state champio… https://t.co/mLv9SyOM2C — VYPE DFW (@VYPE DFW)
Along with Owens-Barnett, Frisco Liberty also got an important 10-point outing from Maya Jain.