Furious Fourth-Quarter Rally Propels Martin’s Mill to Class A Division I State Championship
AUSTIN -- Haily Jenkins was not going to be denied. Not for a fourth straight year in the state final. Not by Smyer for the third time. And not after an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
Jenkins' pull-up jumper with 13 seconds remaining capped an improbable fourth-quarter comeback and propelled the No. 1 Martin's Mill Lady Mustangs to a 49-46 win over Smyer in the Class A Division I state championship game Saturday morning at the University of Texas' Frank Erwin Special Events Center.
The game-winning shot hung on the rim for a split-second before dropping in.
“That’s fine," said Jenkins, a McNeese State signee who finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists. "If it hangs on the rim and goes in, that’s perfectly fine.”
Jenkins had eight points in the fourth quarter and six during Martin's Mill's 15-2 run in the game's final 3:58, but it was her flair for the dramatic at the end that made all the difference.
“I knew that we needed a bucket, not in a hurry but kind of," said Jenkins, who was named the championship game's Most Outstanding Player. "And so whenever I drove to the middle, I shot and it felt short. It seemed like it took an hour to go in the basket. And then I just knew at that moment, it was game time, it was here."
Smyer (33-7) had one last opportunity to tie things up, but Martin's Mill junior guard Cassidy McCoy got her hands on a potential game-tying shot attempt from Shelby McCullough on the baseline. Sophomore post Cheyenne Brown got the rebound, and sank 1-of-2 free throws with 1.7 seconds remaining.
Then it was time to celebrate the third state championship in Martin's Mill (34-5) history, and first since 2008.
"We were fortunate Cassidy was in the right place at the right time," said Martin's Mill coach Doug Barncastle. "She got a finger on the ball; she got a deflection on a block and we were fortunate the ball fell in our hands. I said this the other day, but you need a little lady luck and she was on our side again today.”
Martin's Mill's comeback began with the Lady Mustangs trailing 44-34 with just less than four minutes remaining.
Smyer turned it over on consecutive possessions under duress from the Lady Mustangs' full-court pressure, and Martin's Mill took full advantage with buckets from Brown and senior Taylor Munns to cut the deficit to six points. And after a basket from Jordan Locke on the other end, Jenkins scored consecutive baskets -- the second of which off an offensive rebound that cut Smyer's lead to 46-42 with 1:44 remaining.
Then it got crazy.
Smyer had turnovers on its next three possessions.
"I knew we had it in us," Barncastle said. "We do a lot of conditioning, a lot of training for -- I hate to say -- situations like that. I thought we still had our legs under us at the end of the game, going into the fourth quarter. Bottom line: they had (a 10-point lead) and we had to make some things happen.
Munns' picked up a loose ball off a deflection and layed it in, cutting the lead to 46-44 with 58 seconds remaining. Then, Jenkins found Brown underneath the basket for an easy layup that tied the game with 33 seconds to go.
The third consecutive Smyer turnover set Jenkins up for the winner.
"(Jenkins) found a way to put the ball in the basket," Barncastle said. "We set a good screen and the screen’s got to be perfect for her to come off of it. I think (Smyer's 6-2 post Kennedy Farr) was in the middle of the paint and she made the decision to pull up for the jumper instead of trying to go into her and get contact, which was a great decision. Sometimes as a coach, you’ve got to sit back and watch and try not to screw it up.”
Brown and Munns also hit double figures in scoring for Martin's Mill. Brown finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Munns added 11 points, five boards, four assists and four steals.
For three-and-a-half quarters, it was all Smyer. And in particular the frontcourt duo of Farr and 5-10 senior Jordan Locke. Farr was a monster in the paint with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and seven blocks. Locke added 17 points -- including two of Smyer's five 3-pointers -- to go with six boards, three assists and three steals.
“If we get it down there, my two seniors just dominate inside," said Smyer coach Leland Bearden. “They carried us all the way through to this game. They got us here, they carried us all season -- two phenomenal players; they just stepped it up this year.”
For the game, Smyer shot 51.4 percent (18-of-35), while Martin's Mill struggled through a 22-of-60 (36.7 percent) effort from the field.
“Winners find a way to win," Barncastle said. "We could look at stats all day long and I can’t explain them. You look at it on paper and we should’ve got blown out.”
Consecutive feeds from Farr to Locke gave Smyer a 36-23 lead -- it's biggest of the game -- with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter.
And admittedly, doubt was beginning to creep in. But only for a moment.
“We knew that if we kept pushing, playing defense, getting deflections, listening to what Coach Barncastle says that we would come out with a win," Jenkins said.
It was a storybook ending to Jenkins' senior season, which began on a surgeon's table after tearing an ACL last April.
"(The game-winning shot) went in, me and (fellow senior Meagan Weatherford) looked at each other and I just started crying -- just an amazing feeling," Jenkins said.
Girls Class A Division I State Championship
At University of Texas' Frank Erwin Special Events Center, Austin
No. 1 Martin's Mill 49, Smyer 46
Martin's Mill 11 5 10 23 -- 49
Smyer 16 7 14 9 -- 46
MARTIN'S MILL--Haily Jenkins, 21; Cheyenne Brown, 11; Taylor Munns, 11; Meagan Weatherford, 6.
SMYER--Kennedy Farr, 20; Jordan Locke, 17; Lexie Fowler, 3; Brogan Henley, 3; Shelby McCullough, 3.
RECORDS--Martin's Mill 34-5; Smyer 33-7.