Saltillo Clamps Down On Defense + Advances to Class A Division II State Title Game
AUSTIN -- It's simple, but effective: keep the opposition off the scoreboard.
The top-ranked Saltillo Lady Lions rode that formula into the Class A Division II state championship game with a dominating 41-19 victory over Roscoe Highland in their semifinal Friday afternoon at the University of Texas' Frank Erwin Special Events Center.
Saltillo (32-5) limited Highland (31-5) to 6-of-32 shooting -- an 18.8-percent clip -- in reaching the program's first state final in its second state tournament appearance.
“I really thought our kids stepped up as a group," said Saltillo coach Garry Davision. "We’re matched up with a man, but we play team defensively -- 5-on-1 helping. And I really felt they had a hard time."
The Lady Lions will face either second-ranked Whitharral (36-4) or Leakey (24-7) at 7 p.m. Saturday for the state championship.
“To be the first group to get the first-place medal would bring so much pride and make our family and our community so proud," said Saltillo's 6-1 senior post Victoria Stretcher.
Highland struggled to find a rhythm offensively from the very beginning, turning it over on its first three possessions. And the Lady Hornets kept giving it away, finishing the game with 19.
“Any time we give the other team the ball that many more times than you got it, obviously it’s going to help them out," said Highland coach Shea Baucom. "I think once they got a little bit of a lead, we tried to rush at that point.”
Saltillo didn't exactly light it up from the field, either. The Lady Lions shot just 33 percent, going just 2-of-9 from the 3-point line and 11-of-21 at the free-throw line.
“I thought in our motion offense, I didn’t think we cut hard enough at times and that ended up causing us some problems," Davison said. "But you’ve got to give them credit; they had pretty good size and were pretty good defensively themselves. But I thought we battled through that pretty well.”
Highland worked hard on the defensive end to take away Stretcher, Saltillo's leading scorer. She finished with just four points, going 2-of-14 from the field.
"Everybody knows they’re going to double (Stretcher), but she’s probably the best passing big girl in our region, in our state, bar none," Davison said. "I know Vic only had four points today, but she was probably responsible for 34. It’s just because of the attention she draws.”
Saltillo junior point guard Kendall Bain benefitted from all the extra attention paid to Stretcher. She finished with a game-high 14 points to go with four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“She’s a little spark plug," Davison said of Bain. "She’s the one that really keeps us going, and she’s the only junior I’ve got. So I really, really like her because I get her next year. I thought she stepped up, focused, ran the offense and she took what was given. When they doubled Vic, she made them pay."
Added Bain: “A lot of teams (try to) take Victoria out of the game because she’s a big threat. She’s a great passer and she’s a great player all-around. Coming into this game, I knew I was going to have to step up. It’s the state tournament; the best teams get here. I knew that I had to bring something to the table, and once they started taking the big girl away, you’ve got to find another way to get to the goal.”
While Stretcher was held down on the offensive end, her presence was felt on defense where she helped hold Highland's 6-2 post Sierra Allen to only four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
“We knew she was their key," Davison said of Allen. "We knew when she got the ball at the high post or the short corner, we’re going to make her have to give it up. I’ve seen her on tape and when she got the ball she was going to shoot, she was going to score."
Saltillo, despite not knocking down its first field goal until the 3:39 mark of the opening quarter, raced out to an 18-2 lead midway through the second and led 21-7 at halftime.
The Lady Lions eventually stretched their lead to 23 points late in the fourth quarter, comfortably putting the semifinals in the rear-view mirror and bringing Saturday night's title game to the forefront.
“It would be amazing," said Saltillo senior Andrea Tippit when asked about potentially winning a state championship. "It’s something we’ve worked for our entire basketball careers.”
Girls Class A Division II State Semifinal
At University of Texas' Frank Erwin Special Events Center, Austin
No. 1 Saltillo 41, Roscoe Highland 19
Saltillo 13 8 6 14 -- 41
Highland 2 5 2 10 -- 19
SALTILLO--Kendall Bain, 14; Andrea Tippit, 9; Karli Brewer, 6; Victoria Stretcher, 4; Ariel Tippit, 4; Haylee Clover, 2; Chelsea Moore, 2.
HIGHLAND--Beth Richburg, 6; Hannah Allen, 4; Sierra Allen, 4; Kaylee Martin, 2; Madison Moseley, 2; Sydny Helbert, 1.
RECORDS--Saltillo 32-5; Highland 31-5.