JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — The Faith Academy of Marble Falls girls basketball team had one more practice March 5 in a final preparation for Houston Lutheran North.
The two meet at 6 p.m. March 6 in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Class 3A state tournament at Mansfield Summit High School, 1071 Turner Warnell Road in Arlington.
The Lady Flames (32-4) are ranked No. 2 in the small private schools poll of the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, while the Lady Lions (37-1) are ranked No. 1.
HLN’s only loss was to Beaumont Legacy (66-48) on Dec. 29, which snapped a 20-game winning streak. Currently, the Lady Lions are on a 17-game winning streak.
Faith head coach Jerry English said he has been pleased with his players’ focus and application of the staff’s instructions on the court.
“We were very alert,” he said. “We have so many young girls. They were very attentive.”
Some boys have been used as practice players to help the Lady Flames prepare for what could be a physical contest.
The Lady Lions, who average 70 points a contest, are led by senior posts Shania Woods, who averages 22 points and 11 rebounds a game, and Tiffany Valentine, who averages 18 points and nine rebounds; and junior shooting guard Asia Woods, who averages 15 points and five rebounds.
“Those three players are very solid, very sound,” English said.
Valentine and Woods play a high-low game that’s given opponents fits, English said. Woods, who lines up at low post, uses her natural body strength to create space for herself in the paint to score high-percentage shots.
“She’s as good of a post as you’ve ever seen,” English said. “She is very sturdy, very aggressive. She makes everything go. We don’t want the high post to have direct contact with her.”
So the Lady Flames made an adjustment on their basic zone by moving junior post Hannah Cozby to the left side and sliding freshman post Sedona Prince a little higher to make entry passes to the block more difficult.
“One of the boys said once we started Hannah there … it limited his ability to get the ball,” English said. “Once he got the ball, he could not turn.”
The Lady Lions also want to score quickly. One of their favorite plays is sending a guard quickly to the opposite basket after the opponent shoots. Then, one of the Lady Lions will throw a long pass to her for a fast layup, which makes the opponent look flat-footed.
“They score 40 percent of their points off (that play),” the Faith coach said. “They’ve carved everyone they play to where they can’t seem to control that play.”
So Faith guards practiced releasing to the penetration line closest to the goal they’re defending to limit HLN’s quick layups.
But no matter how the Lady Flames get ready, nothing can prepare players for the moment of playing in a state tournament. English noted that his athletes needed a half against The Woodlands Christian in the regional semifinals Feb. 28 to get comfortable.
Still, he added, his team doesn’t lack the experience of playing at a state tournament. Starters Taylor Denton, Sierra Brinkley and Cozby will be making their third state tournament appearance, while HLN is making its first appearance.
“Does that make a difference? I couldn’t tell you,” English said. “But I’d much prefer them to have seen what it’s like.”
Fans are invited to a sendoff at the academy, three miles east of Marble Falls off RR 1431, at 8 a.m. March 6 before the team boards the bus to travel to Mansfield.