JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
BRENHAM — Before the Burnet High School girls basketball team faced Brazosport on Feb. 23 for a spot in the Class 4A Region IV tournament, the Lady Dawgs first had to overcome bus trouble on their way to the gym.
But that and the Exporters (28-6) didn’t stop the Lady Dawgs (20-13) from prevailing 77-66.
“A lot of people thought we couldn’t score 77 points,” head coach Doug Messer joked. “Confidence comes with winning and beating good teams. They showed a lot of grit and toughness.”
Burnet began the contest with a 9-4 lead, but Brazosport responded to take a 13-12 advantage. Both squads exchanged baskets to end the first quarter with the Exporters leading 18-16.
The two did much of the same in the second quarter, though senior guard Shaylah Hullum nailed the final basket of the half to give the Lady Dawgs a 35-34 lead.
After Brazosport took a 45-41 lead, Hullum began a shooting rhythm that buried the Exporters.
She nailed the first of three 3-pointers, constantly answering each basket by Brazosport senior Jasmyne Harris, who signed to play for the University of Houston. All of a sudden, a four-point deficit was a three-point advantage headed into the final stanza.
Harris brought her team to within one, 56-55, but Hullum and sophomore center Marissa Escamilla led the Lady Dawgs on a 10-0 run that put the game out of reach.
Hullum, senior forward Miranda Weeks and senior point guard Afabiana Brooks made seven of 10 free throws in the final two minutes 38 seconds to secure the victory.
Escamilla finished with 27 points, while Hullum added 26, including four 3-pointers.
Messer said he told Hullum she played the game of her life.
To Hullum, the win symbolizes the bond the players have.
“It feels great because we all contributed to the win,” she said. “We grew as a family from the first game. We love being the underdogs, we love proving people wrong. I feel like it’s a dream.”
For this group of Lady Dawgs, the win was especially sweet. They’ll return to the regional tournament for the third time in program history. But what makes this team different from the other two is the squads in 2008-09 and 2009-10 were expected to make deep runs.
But those squads have the same qualities: outstanding guards who minimize mistakes and make big-time shots in key moments, posts who score high-percentage baskets and rebound well, and the players don’t turn the ball over and rarely commit silly fouls.
To Messer, the 2015-16 Lady Dawgs also played the way those regional qualifiers played.
“We’re tough, we run the floor when everyone else is tired,” he said. “Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is get the ball rolling. The girls believe in what we do.”
ON OFFENSE: Escamilla 27, Hullum 26, Brooks 13, Pool 9, Bernal 2, Weeks 2. Brazosport – Harris 37
WORTH NOTING: Burnet has defeated three teams ranked in the top 20 by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (Navarro, Wharton and Brazosport) to earn a regional tournament berth.
RECORDS: Burnet is 20-13 overall.
UP NEXT FOR BURNET: Boerne High at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at Texas A&M-Kingsville, 700 University Blvd. MSC 202 in Kingsville