STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERO
CEDAR CREEK — Going into the Marble Falls High School girls basketball team’s area-round playoff game against Richmond Foster on Feb. 16, there was little question the outcome would be dictated by the guards.
And, in this contest, the Lady Mustangs’ guards were the ones making the plays throughout Marble Falls’s 57-43 win in the Class 5A playoffs.
Marble Falls (26-10 overall, 13-1 District 26-5A) will face Austin High in a regional quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at Max Copeland Gym, 2101 Mustang Drive in Marble Falls.
“We were just composed, and we’re about being composed in tough situations,” Marble Falls head coach John Berkman said about his team’s win. “(The guards) showed a lot of composure all the way.”
Indeed. Foster’s guards played physical defense to ensure there were no easy passes, no easy running lanes, no easy rebounds, and no easy layups.
The Lady Falcons (22-14, 12-2 District 27-5A) used their hands to disrupt dribbles and passes, their feet to chase down fastbreak opportunities, and their bodies to shutdown lanes.
And yet, the Lady Mustangs simply kept it together, starting with an improvement in free throw shooting.
Marble Falls was 27 of 38 from the foul line with Foster putting the Lady Mustangs in the bonus in the first quarter; during Marble Falls’s 57-33 bi-district win against Austin LBJ on Feb 12 , the Lady Mustangs were 7 of 16.
Berkman was pleased with the foul shooting.
In fact, that’s how Marble Falls scored its first points of the game. Junior Trinity Boyd knocked down both of her attempts, and sophomore guard Rylie Ulbricht hit 1 of 2 attempts for a 3-0 lead.
Marble Falls ended the opening stanza on a 10-1 run for a 15-5 advantage.
The two teams exchanged baskets throughout the second period, though the Lady Mustangs led 27-19 at the half.
Senior forward Aubree Adams scored four points to begin the third period, while sophomore guard Kendall Ulbricht added two free throws to build a 33-19 advantage.
But Foster answered with a 10-4 run to trim the deficit 37-29.
With under two minutes left in the period, Boyd was fouled, and right after that, a technical foul was given to the Foster bench. So after Boyd made both of her free shots, Kendall Ulbricht nailed the two free throws that came with the technical, and Adams scored a layup on the ensuing possession to extend the Lady Mustangs’ lead to 43-29.
Both teams matched other point for point during the last period.
Berkman noted his players fought through some adversity with foul trouble, and the Lady Mustangs had to rely on reserves to perform at a high level to secure the victory.
“We were fighting through it,” he said. “And we stayed within ourselves. Composure goes a long way.”
Rylie Ulbricht, who scored 12 points, credited coaches for the guards’ performances. She said the coaches will practice with them and make it a point not to take it easy.
“I wanted to win and didn’t want to give up,” she said. “Our goal is to make it to (the) state (tournament).”
Adams led the Lady Mustangs with 16 points followed by senior center Mya McMillian with 12, Boyd had 10 thanks to making 8 of 9 foul shots, Kendall Ulbricht added 4, and senior post Aileen Neri scored 2.
Rylie Ulbricht said having teammates like McMillian and Adams helps the guards tremendously because of their ability to catch just about any type of pass, to rebound, and to force the other teams’ shooters to alternate their shots.
“Mya was working really hard in the paint. So was Aubree,” she said. “They’re really talented.”
McMillian couldn’t say enough about the guards.
“They kept their cool,” she said. “They are carrying the team.”
“This group of guards, we’ve preached to them all year long that they’re good enough, they can play with anyone on the floor,” Berkman said. “They played like they believed it.”