JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
BASTROP — The Marble Falls High School girls basketball won a hard-fought area championship Feb. 17 against a San Antonio Sam Houston team that simply wouldn’t go away.
Next up is Port Lavaca Calhoun in the regional quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Gonzales High School, 1801 N. Sarah Dewitt Drive in Gonzales.
During Marble Falls’ 57-47 victory, the Lady Hurricanes drove into several Lady Mustangs (22-9, 10-3 District 26-5A) to draw fouls throughout the contest.
Houston was so effective with the strategy that it drew 14 fouls and attempted 21 free throws in the opening 16 minutes of the contest. The Lady Hurricanes made seven free shots.
That meant that several Marble Falls starters had to find a seat on the sideline.
No problem for head coach John Berkman and his team though.
Reserves such as junior post Aileen Neri, sophomore post Trinity Boyd, and sophomore guard Emily Reed logged valuable minutes to ensure the Lady Mustangs led from start to finish throughout the contest.
“It says big things when you have a team that everyone can come in and contribute,” Berkman said. “Aileen comes in and does exactly what I asked her to do: Be ready, step in and take charges, block out and score. Trinity took three charges and got big rebounds. Our reserves have been chomping at the bit to get in.”
By the end of the first half, Marble Falls led 24-16 behind senior Molly Myrick’s seven points and Neri’s six points, to lead all Lady Mustang scorers. Those three baskets, however, came to break a tie, on the low block in traffic, and in the final 19 seconds of the second quarter. In addition Neri added a crucial assist when she passed the ball right back to senior Molly Myrick from the low block. Myrick nailed a 3-pointer to give Marble Falls a 22-16 advantage with 70 seconds left in the half.
“You got to put your mind to it,” Neri said of her performance. “Coach tells you something to do, you got to go do it. When I go in, I give it all I can give.”
Junior post Mya McMillian, who led the Lady Mustangs with 14 points, noted Neri, Boyd, and Reed came up big when they were needed most. She pointed out their ability to score, rebound, and play defense that kept the advantage.
“Aileen did much more than her part,” she said. “Emily had great hustle; she got on them defensively. Everybody did their part. They stepped up. The reserves did more than their part. That’s what makes us a team.”
Throughout the contest, Houston made it difficult for Marble Falls to inbound the ball and break the full-court press. Oftentimes, the Lady Hurricanes stepped in front of passes or forced turnovers that kept the Lady Mustangs on the defensive.
“They’re physical, and they’re on top of us all the time,” the coach said. “We don’t play a lot of teams like that. Our girls responded well. We played tough.”
By the beginning of the third quarter, though, the Lady Mustangs flexed their muscles.
After Houston cut the deficit to 24-20, Marble Falls went on a 10-1 run thanks to three fastbreak buckets and high-percentage shots.
That separation is what propelled the Lady Mustangs to victory.
Berkman said what pleased him most about the way his athletes played was their composure for 32 minutes.
“We got to where we were shooting too many quick shots,” he said. “We kept playing hard. It’s our calling card all year – to keep getting after it.”
Neri said she was happy to play a role to help the team reach the third round of the playoffs.
“It feels amazing, let me tell ya,” she said with a laugh. “I almost feel like crying. I’m glad to be on this team. It’s a blessing. We’re a close family. It’s amazing.”