The 2019-20 Faith Academy of Marble Falls girls basketball team is all smiles after winning a regional final to return to the Class 3A state tournament of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. The Lady Flames defeated Dallas Lutheran High School 55-35 on February 21. The team includes (front row from left) Kendall Mason (front row, left), Hannity Shipley, Juliette McCannon, Valerie Coffey, Christian Wilcox, Bailey Freeman, Christian Glosson, Anna Gurganus, and McKenzie Ahrlett and (back row) assistant coach Kat Tolbert and head coach Larry Berkman. Courtesy photo
The Faith Academy of Marble Falls girls basketball team is returning to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Class 3A state tournament after a 20-point win in the regional finals.
The Lady Flames beat Dallas Lutheran High School 55-35 on February 21 to advance to the state tournament.
Faith is preparing to face Midland Classical Christian, the defending state champion, in a state semifinal game, which tips off at 4 p.m. Thursday, February 27, at Waco Robinson High School, 700 W. Tate Ave. in Waco.
Lady Flames head coach Larry Berkman, who will coach in his first state tournament in his almost 40-year career, said that while the victory against Lutheran High looked convincing, it never felt easy. He noted the lead was trimmed to about 12 points throughout the contest, keeping the Lady Flames focused for 32 minutes.
“It never felt like we were comfortable,” he said. “You never lead by enough to feel like you’re safe. We’d start to pull away, and they’d come back. It was one of those nights that it never felt comfortable.”
Still, Faith performed the way it is coached: solid contributions from players who understand and embrace their roles. When the Lady Flames needed a stop, they got one. When they needed a bucket, they scored one. When they needed to retain possession, they did. And most important to Berkman, all of his players contributed so Lutheran couldn’t shut down one or two Lady Flames and think the game was in hand.
“It was a solid night,” he said. “We had four people in double figures. And nobody scored a bunch in a row. Everybody did their role and their job like they were supposed to.”
Of all the statistics that stood out to him, the 17 assists impressed him. That told Berkman the Lady Flames were sharing the ball to keep everyone involved.
“A lot of people contributed, not just in points made,” he said. “We’re passing the ball around, and nobody hogs the show. It was really a good team effort. Everybody has a role, and these girls have been good for two years to not get jealous or mad at each other.”
Seniors Bailey Freeman and Christian Wilcox were on the 2016-17 team, which was the last Faith squad to reach the state tournament.
While Faith celebrated the win against Dallas Lutheran over the weekend, they begin preparations for Midland Classical Christian this week. Midland Classical defeated Round Rock Christian 66-32 on February 22 in another regional final after eliminating Live Oak Classical 63-23 on February 18. Round Rock Christian and Live Oak Classical are in the same District 3-3A as Faith.
Midland Classical Christian has three players back from the state championship team.
“They have three starters who are pretty experienced,” Berkman said.
From a personal standpoint, Berkman said coaching his granddaughter, Bailey Freeman, and making his first appearance at a state tournament is extraordinary. Berkman spent the bulk of his coaching career as the Marble Falls High Schools boys coach, where he even coached his son, John Allen Berkman. The younger Berkman is currently the Marble Falls girls coordinator and head girls basketball coach.
While he was “trying not to make a big deal out of” coaching in his first state tournament, Berkman couldn’t help but gush about how much he looks forward to coaching these Lady Flames with Freeman while Bailey’s mother and his daughter, Lane Berkman Freeman, keep the scorebook for the team.
“I get to go with my granddaughter, and that makes it special,” he said.