JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
GONZALES — In a game during which every possession mattered, it was the Marble Falls High School girls basketball team’s defense that caused so much grief for Port Lavaca Calhoun in a Class 5A regional quarterfinals contest Feb. 21.
The Lady Mustangs (23-9 overall, 10-3 District 26-5A) won 63-58 to return to the Class 5A Region IV tournament, the fourth tournament appearance in program history.
They will play Corpus Christi Flour Bluff, which will make its second consecutive trip to the regional tournament, at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at Dub Ferris Athletic Complex, 8400 N. Loop 1604 West in San Antonio. The Lady Hornets defeated Laredo Cigarroa 59-45 behind 27 points from Hayle Campbell.
Against Calhoun, four of Marble Falls’ points came from senior post Aspen Woerner, who had the same number of earned charges that went against Calhoun senior forward Abby Hroch. Hroch, who had been averaging 16 points a contest, scored two.
“That’s the most charges I’ve had in a game,” Woerner said. “My whole team came and picked me up.”
“Aspen took her out in the first half,” junior power forward Aubree Adams said. “That really got us hyped and going. Every time she took a charge, it got me hyped.”
The two teams were evenly matched as evidenced by the halftime score of 24-24.
That changed in the third quarter, when the Lady Sandcrabs (24-16, 7-6 District 27-5A) began with an 8-2 run that forced Marble Falls head coach John Berkman to call a timeout 88 seconds into the period.
When Calhoun built a 41-32 lead, Berkman asked for another timeout then watched as his players answered.
This time, Marble Falls, behind the play of junior center Mya McMillian, senior guard Molly Myrick and Woerner, finished the quarter with a 9-1 run of its own to close to a 43-41 deficit headed into the final period.
Adams tied the game at 43-43 eight seconds in. That led to an 11-3 run and a 52-46 lead with 4 minutes 20 second remaining in the contest.
Calhoun trimmed the deficit to a point twice in the final 3:39 but couldn’t get any closer.
That’s because the Lady Mustangs got valuable shots from Myrick, McMillian, and junior post Aileen Neri, who had the game’s final basket, for the victory.
“Honestly we never gave up,” Adams said. “This is something we’ve wanted to so bad, to keep going. It’s been so exciting and surprising we’ve gotten this far. We kept pushing.”
“That was a hard-fought battle,” Berkman said. “We fought them back every time. They hit a ton of shots we didn’t think they would. We kept making plays.”
The key to the Lady Mustangs’ offense — with McMillian and Adams finishing with 15 points each and Myrick adding 14 with four 3-pointers — was moving without the ball and the players setting themselves up for open looks, Berkman said.
“We talked a lot about that, making them work hard on defense,” he said. “(My players) came out and did exactly what I told them.”
Adams, who also made a 3-pointer, noted the balanced scoring kept Calhoun on its heels while it energized the Lady Mustangs and their fans.
“Molly was shooting threes and hyping everybody up,” she said. “We had a lot of big buckets that got us on a roll. Mostly, we had a lot of clutch baskets.”
Senior guard Tiffany Dunavant summed up the feelings of her team as she thought of what it meant to get to the regional tournament.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” she said. “I can’t wait to play in it. It means the world to me.”