TYLER -- For eight years, the Martin's Mill Lady Mustangs and the girls state basketball tournament were synonymous with one another.

But the Kerens Lady Cats clamped down defensively in the fourth quarter to deny top-ranked Martin's Mill a ninth consecutive trip to Austin with a 57-49 win Saturday in their Class A Division I Region III championship game at Tyler Junior College's Wagstaff Gym.

Martin's Mill's Cheyenne Brown puts up a shot against Kerens during the Class A Division I Region III championship game Saturday in Tyler. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

"You really can't sum up what these girls have done in a postgame interview," said Martin's Mill coach Doug Barncastle, who captured his 300th career win earlier this season. "I'm proud of each and every one of them. It wasn't our game, and so we take that as a life's lesson and we keep rolling. Our girls have more than just basketball to lean back on. My hat's off to Kerens and (head coach Denise Lincoln); she's done a fantastic job over there."

Kerens (28-4), which lost to Martin's Mill (33-3) in the state semifinals two years ago, outscored the Lady Mustangs 13-5 in the fourth quarter after the teams entered the final period deadlocked at 44-44.

"We weren't hitting any shots (in the fourth)," Barncastle said. "I thought they did a good job defending us, putting a lot of pressure on us. They got us out of our comfort zone."

Kerens scored the first six points of the fourth to take a 50-44 lead with 4:46 remaining, but Martin's Mill's Madison Daniel knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the lead to three points at 50-47 with 2:56 to play.

Taylor Ames, who finished with a team-high 18 points for Kerens, had the answer by knocking down a 3 of her own to push the lead back to six with 2:33 remaining. It was the third of her three 3-pointers for the game.

"Taylor's a fighter," said Lincoln. "If one goes down and hits a 3, you better look up because she's going to come down and hit another 3 for us. She competes like that."

Kerens players celebrate following their 57-49 win over Martin's Mill in the Class A Division I Region III championship game Saturday in Tyler. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Three other players reached double figures in scoring for Kerens. Cambree Betts had 13 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals, Marqueshia Kelly added 11 points, five boards and four of Kerens' six blocks on the afternoon and Breanna Baxter produced a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds to go with a pair of blocks.

Cheyenne Brown led Martin's Mill with 18 points and 18 rebounds, but Kerens' frontcourt defense made things difficult for the 6-0 junior post all game long. Cassidy McCoy added 13 points, while Daniel chipped in with eight points, five rebounds and three assists.

McCoy's running layup cut Kerens' lead to 54-49 with 1:24 remaining, but Ames came up big again on the other end, putting up a layup while being fouled for a seven-point lead with 47 seconds to go. Kerens made just one of its final five free-throw attempts, but Martin's Mill turned it over on consecutive possessions to help Kerens reach its desired destination.

"That's one of the most important things that we wanted to do," Lincoln said. "We wanted to get to state, but we wanted to beat Martin's Mill to get there. They beat us two years ago at state; any time you beat Martin's Mill it's a special win."

Kerens players celebrate after their 57-49 win over Martin's Mill in the Class A Division I Region III championship game Saturday in Tyler. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

No. 9 Kerens 57, No. 1 Martin's Mill 49

Girls Class A Division I Region III Final

At Tyler Junior College's Wagstaff Gym

Martin's Mill          10   15   19    5   --   49
Kerens                 17   11   16   13  --   57
MARTIN'S MILL (33-3) -- Cheyenne Brown, 18; Cassidy McCoy, 13; Madison Daniel, 8; Alyssa Pate, 6; Hannah Celsur, 3; Hailey Celsur, 1.
KERENS (28-4) -- Taylor Ames, 18; Cambree Betts, 13; Marqueshia Kelly, 11; Breanna Baxter, 10; Emmanuella Armant, 3; Tinesha Tolliver, 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Martin's Mill: Daniel (2), Pate (2), Hannah Celsur, McCoy. Kerens: Ames (3), Kelly (2).