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JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

DUBLIN — The Faith Academy girls basketball team defeated Muenster Sacred Heart 38-32 on Feb. 26 for its fifth Class 2A state tournament berth of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.

“It wasn’t a very pretty game,” Lady Flames head coach Jerry English said with a grin, “but we had a few more than they had. It makes you smile.”

Next up is Sherman Texoma Christian at 4:30 p.m. March 1.

The Lady Flames (36-2) beat Sacred Heart by getting steals and scoring from the foul line.

Faith senior post Rebekah Graham broke a 32-32 tie by hitting a jumper from the free-throw line with under 90 seconds remaining in the game.

Then, Faith senior guard Bailey Brinkley hit a free throw with 10 seconds left, and sophomore point guard Taylor Denton was fouled after she picked up a loose ball and made both foul shots with 2.8 seconds remaining to put the game on ice.

The Lady Flames had to overcome a slow start during which they trailed by as many as seven points.

But Faith junior post Juliette Fisher hit a bucket right before the buzzer to end the first quarter.

That sparked a 16-2 run in the second period and gave Faith a 20-12 halftime lead.

Sacred Heart, however, wouldn’t go away. Instead, it chipped at the lead during the third quarter and cut it to 22-20 going into the final period.

The Lady Flames never led by more than six points in the fourth quarter.

English said he told Brinkley she had to do something special, and she responded with the late-game steal and free throw.

The Texas Sports Hall-of-Fame coach will guide a team to the state tournament for the 16th time in his career.

“It’s just overpowering emotionally,” he said. “I can’t explain what it means. I’m awfully proud of my kids. It’s a wonderful experience. It’s something they should be able to tell their kids.”

By beating Sacred Heart, this Lady Flames squad avoided the fate of the 2006-2007 team, which saw its lead against the same opponent late in the game disappear.

This season’s Faith team made free throws down the stretch. Six years ago, a missed free throw by the Lady Flames allowed Sacred Heart to hit a 3-pointer at the horn to win the state semifinal game. Sacred Heart went on to win the state title.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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Faith Academy Lady FlamesFaith Academy senior guard Bailey Brinkley (left) is on her way to the basket during the Lady Flames’ 38-32 win against Muenster Sacred Heart on Feb. 26 in the regional final. With the victory, the Lady Flames will make their fifth state tournament appearance in eight years. Courtesy photo

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Faith Academy Lady FlamesFaith Academy junior forward Kristen Cherry (left) draws the Sacred Heart defense during the first quarter. Courtesy photo

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Faith Academy Lady FlamesFaith Academy sophomore point guard Taylor Denton waits for her teammates to get in place for a half-court play. Courtesy photo

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Faith Academy Lady FlamesFaith Academy head coach Jerry English (center) is surrounded by his Lady Flames, who are celebrating the fifth state tournament berth in the eight years he has been the head coach. It’s also the 16th victory of his career and No. 1,099 of his career. The win against Sacred Heart is Faith’s 36th of the year that ties the most an English-coached team has earned in a single season, dating to when he was at Pflugerville decades ago. Courtesy photo

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Faith Academy Lady FlamesFaith Academy junior post Juliette Fisher (center) takes a shot in the paint. Courtesy photo

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