No. 1 Saltillo Takes Down No. 7 Coolidge to Win Class A D-II Region III Championship
TYLER -- For the Saltillo Lady Lions, the third time was a charm.
After losing in the regional finals two years in a row, Saltillo will make an appearance in Austin in next week's UIL Class A Division I state tournament after defeating No. 7 Coolidge 54-42 in the Region III championship at Tyler Junior College's Wagstaff Gymnasium on Saturday.
Saltillo (31-6) senior Karli Brewer sank a free throw with 10 seconds left in the third quarter, giving the Lady Lions their first lead of the game, 34-33. Saltillo then outscored Coolidge 20-9 in the final frame to punch its ticket to Austin.
"I'm really proud of (Brewer). She hadn't played real well, and wasn't attacking the goal," said Saltillo coach Gary Davison. "When she decided to start going to the hoop, she got Coolidge's top players in foul trouble, and it gave us a little spark. She got us fired up."
Brewer finished with 11 points, all in the second half.
"I couldn't lose this game," Brewer said. "Not for a third time in a row. We couldn't go home."
Saltillo's Victoria Stretcher poured in a game-high 19 points and five rebounds. Andrea Tippit and Chelsea Moore combined for 16 points and seven boards. Sophomore point guard Kendall Bain chipped in two points, four assists, and a couple of steals.
"We played a little harder, and (Coolidge) started panicking a little bit," Davison said of Saltillo's second-half comeback. "I thought that was the difference in the game. We were stationary in the first half. We were easy to cover. When we started moving, we started finding those holes in the defense. Our girls just did a great job."
Up 34-33 to begin the fourth, Saltillo started an 11-2 run that took just over three minutes, highlighted by a Brewer three-point play and a Haylee Clover assist to Moore for a lefty bank shot. The spurt gave the Lady Lions a 43-35 lead with 4:58 remaining.
Coolidge (24-3) owned the first quarter. The Lady Jackets' Dianna Kirven had seven of the team's 14 points in the opening period. Coolidge extended its lead to 17-5 after a three-point play from Brianna Kirven early in the second.
Then Saltillo woke up. The Lady Lions staged an 11-3 spurt starting with a Stretcher putback and capped by a Tippit layup with just under two minutes until halftime. A runner in the lane by Dianna Kirven gave Coolidge a 22-18 advantage at intermission.
Dianna Kirven, a sophomore, led Coolidge with 13 points. Brianna Kirven and Adrianna Jones combined for 18 points and six boards.
Both teams traded runs in the third. Coolidge opened with an 8-4 spurt, while Saltillo finished the quarter on a 9-0 run.