No. 1 Martin’s Mill Looks to Finish the Job At State + Faces Snook in 1A Division I Semifinals
AUSTIN -- The Martin's Mill Lady Mustangs have been ranked No. 1 all year long, but that can only carry a team so far.
Head coach Doug Barncastle knows that all to well. He is taking his team to the girls state basketball tournament, which begins Thursday morning, for the eighth straight year. And yet, the last time Martin's Mill celebrated a state title was 2008.
"That's something we talked about all year regarding other teams," Barncastle said. "When they play the Martin's Mill Lady Mustangs, they're going to bring their best basketball game. I try not to make a big deal out of rankings because unfortunately for us, how often does the No. 1 team ever win?"
Martin's Mill (32-5) hopes to complete the wire-to-wire act this weekend with the school's third state championship under Barncastle. The Lady Mustangs face Snook (24-11) at 10 a.m. Thursday in one Class A Division I state semifinal from the Frank Erwin Special Events Center on the campus of the University of Texas.
"It never gets old, we're excited about it," Barncastle said. "I think it's that way every year we go to state, a new dynamic for each team. We never take it for granted, each time we go we want to make the most of it while we're down here."
Martin's Mill has certainly made a habit of journeying to the state capital at the end of every basketball season.
"It's the players in the program that are sold out to the program," Barncastle said. "They do all the little things as far as getting in the weight room during the summer and playing summer-league basketball. The parents follow them all over the state of Texas while they play select basketball. That's what makes a solid program, and once you build it, that's what sustains the program and continues the success."
Martin's Mill rolled in the state semifinals a year ago, only to suffer a 30-point loss to Sudan in the championship game. Barncastle said star guard Haily Jenkins, who has signed with McNeese State, wasn't given enough support from her teammates in the final, and it showed up at the worst possible time.
But what seemed like a disaster at the time turned out to be a blessing in disguise when Jenkins went down with a torn ACL last April, forcing her teammates to carry on until her return.
"I think that's been huge," Barncastle said. "Sometimes when a player that's going on to play at the next level, everyone else just expects them to take care of everything. When Haily went down on April 15, they've played a lot of basketball since then and it's given more confidence to everybody else."
Barncastle moved Taylor Munns to point guard in place of Jenkins, who eased back to full strength as the season has progressed.
"I moved Taylor to point guard and she's done fantastic for us, probably averaging 12 or 13 points a game," Barncastle said. "Even when Haily came back, its was kinda slow. When you come back from an ACL injury, you're not immediately ready to go. It probably wasn't until about a month ago where she looked similar to last year."
Jenkins is up to her old tricks now. In last week's regional championship win over Slocum, she dazzled with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
"The biggest thing about her is her resiliency more than anything … her ability to handle adversity," Barncastle said. "Coming off an ACL injury, some people shut it down and kinda feel sorry for themselves and the next year is usually not very productive for them. She knows this is her senior year, and she's been a vital part of the program and what the team has been able to do. She's just done a heck of a job battling and rehabbing, working in the gym to get back to game speed where she was at the end of her junior year."
Munns and 6-1 post Meagan Weatherford are the other two seniors who have played a vital role in the program for the last four years.
"Meagan's been huge for us with rebounding, she probably averages nine rebounds a game," Barncastle said. "And just the fact she's 6-1 bring a presence in the paint. Meagan's never scored a lot of points, but she's always told me she wasn't worried about scoring but about helping the team win."
While Munns' scoring output has increased as a senior, it's her stellar defense that's become her calling card. In the regional final win, Munns guarded Slocum standout Valerie Larkin, who came into last Saturday's game averaging more than 20 points per game.
Munns held Larkin scoreless.
"It was so bad that their coach had to take her off the floor and get onto her a little bit because Taylor was just outworking her and locking her down," Barncastle said. "She literally looked like a shadow. Taylor Munns is maybe the most athletic player I've had the opportunity to coach. She does a great job of going hard 100 percent of the time. I always put Taylor on the other team's best player, which makes it tough on them."
Martin's Mill has first-hand experience with its semifinal opponent, having defeated Snook 58-35 at the Great East Texas Shootout in Brownsboro back in December.
"They rely a lot on guard play and they're pretty quick and athletic," Barncastle said. "They just try to slash a little bit to the bucket so we're going to have to do a solid job defensively. In my opinion, they're going to have a hard time with (6-1 sophomore post Cheyenne Brown) and Weatherford posting up. If they do find an answer for that, hopefully our outside play will be strong for us."
The winner will face either Dallas Triple A Academy (28-5) or Smyer (32-6) at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in the 1A Division I championship game.
MARTIN'S MILL LADY MUSTANGS
Head Coach: Doug Barncastle
2012-13 Record: 32-5
- G Haily Jenkins, 5-8, Sr.
- G Taylor Munns, 5-7, Sr.
- G Alyssa Pate, 5-6, Fr.
- P Cheyenne Brown, 6-1, Soph.
- P Meagan Weatherford, 6-1, Sr.
- Area: def. Lovelady, 68-42
- Regional quarterfinals: def. Cayuga, 50-25
- Regional semifinals: def. Zavalla, 53-46
- Regional championship def. Slocum, 70-34