STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Needing a 3-pointer to send the Class 4A semifinal contest against Sour Lake’s Hardin-Jefferson on March 1 into overtime, the Burnet High School girls basketball team broke its final huddle to step back on the floor with a touch over 30 seconds remaining.
The Lady Hawks (35-4), however, wouldn’t give the Lady Dawgs, who trailed 47-44, a clean look at the basket and forced them far away from the 3-point line.
Hardin-Jefferson then stole the ball and raced for a bucket at the horn to secure a 49-44 victory and end Burnet’s amazing season.
Burnet finished with a 31-8 overall record and earned the most single-season wins in program history. The Lady Dawgs ended a 13-game losing streak to Liberty Hill when they beat the Lady Panthers 52-36 in the Class 4A Region IV championship Feb. 23 to stamp their tickets to the Alamodome for the state tournament for the first time.
“This whole season, we were focused on wanting to go this far,” Burnet senior guard Paris Brinkley said. “We made a lot of memories. I’m so thankful.”
“This is what everyone dreams of doing as a player,” senior guard Emma Lewis said. “We finally did it.”
Burnet trailed 33-29 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Brinkley scored on a jumper from the foul line to bring the Lady Dawgs to within a bucket.
But the Lady Hawks seemed to have an answer and went into their stall offense with a 38-31 lead at 6:11 remaining.
Burnet relied on its defense to stay within striking distance of Hardin-Jefferson. The Lady Dawgs counted on Lewis, senior forward Trynadee Greenwell, and senior guard Hattie Blair to hit long-range jumpers and forcing the Lady Hawks to guard them one on one.
Burnet trimmed the deficit to two points three times in the final 2 minutes and 41 seconds of the contest.
Lewis scored on a layup with 59 seconds on the clock for Burnet’s last points.
She said players could feel the intensity rise as the game wore on.
“We knew we had to keep pushing until the end,” she said.
Lewis opened the game with a 3-pointer, starting a 10-3 run by the Lady Dawgs. Burnet used the quick start to lead throughout the first half.
After a strong start, Burnet went scoreless for the next 6 minutes and 25 seconds in the first quarter. So the Lady Dawgs turned to their relentless defense to preserve their advantage. Burnet limited the Lady Hawks to one shot per possession numerous times and added deflections and steals that forced Hardin-Jefferson into two early timeouts.
The first quarter ended with a 10-8 Burnet lead.
Then Burnet junior guard Caitlynne Graves knocked down a 3-pointer to end the scoring drought, and Brinkley hit two free throws for a 15-8 lead in the second.
The two teams traded baskets before halftime as Burnet led 19-17.
“The girls did an outstanding job of making sure they communicated and didn’t allow easy shots,” Burnet head coach Rick Gates said of the defense.
Hardin-Jefferson began the third quarter with back-to-back buckets, but Brinkley knocked down a free throw to trim the deficit to 22-20. Then, fellow senior guard Emma Lewis nailed a 3-pointer to give the Lady Dawgs a 23-22 lead.
That was the last Burnet lead of the contest.
Hardin-Jefferson ended the third period on an 11-6 run and a 33-29 advantage headed into the fourth.
Lewis led with 17 points, hitting five out of 10 of her 3-point shots. Blair added 10 points, and Brinkley finished with eight.
Hardin-Jefferson freshman guard Ashlon Jackson led her team with 11 points.
Gates said Lady Dawgs’ spectacular season could serve as an inspiration for other teams in the community.
“The young girls in high school and middle school (see) what we’re capable of at Burnet High School,” Gates said. “If you work hard enough and come focused, you can go all the way to the Alamodome.”