Whitharral Pulls Away From Saltillo in Class A Division II State Final, 45-36
AUSTIN — Hot shooting from the outside by Whitharral forced Saltillo into an early deficit, a hole the top-ranked Lady Lions almost cleared.
Whitharral saw its lead seemingly comfortable lead dwindle to two points late in the third quarter before the No. 2 Lady Panthers salted it away, defeating Saltillo 45-36 for the Class A Division II state championship Saturday night at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Special Events Center.
Saltillo finished the season at 32-6, falling in the school’s first-ever state-title game appearance. Whitharral (38-4) won its first crown after falling at the state tournament the previous two seasons.
“We could never get it all the way back,” said Saltillo coach Garry Davison. “I was proud of my kids, they played hard. They came back, fought to get back in it but couldn’t finish it off.”
Whitharral hit four 3-pointers in the first half, leading by as many as 12 points before settling for a 21-14 halftime advantage.
Saltillo slowly chipped away at the deficit, cutting the Lady Panthers’ lead to 25-23 on a 3-point play by 6-1 senior post Victoria Stretcher with 1:52 remaining in the third. But Whitharral outscored Saltillo 20-13 the rest of the way, getting five easy layups and converting 9-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter.
“We had to take chances (defensively),” Davison said. “They’re a very disciplined team, they’re going to handle the ball and they’re not going to turn it over. So we took some chances to trap a little bit and shot some gaps, and when you do that, you leave the bucket unprotected and they hit us on a few of those.”
The loss spoiled a stellar performance from Stretcher, who was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player despite her team finishing on the losing end. Stretcher had 22 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.
“I’ve had her for four years and I’m really going to miss her,” Davison said of Stretcher. “She scored left, she scored right and she’s so good defensively. I’m going to miss her; she’s a warrior. I’m going to miss all six of my seniors.”
Stretcher was 9-of-17 from the field and 4-of-5 from the foul line, but the rest of Saltillo shot 4-of-27 (12.9 percent).
“At one point I turned to one of my coaches and said ‘we can’t stop (Stretcher), she’s too big,’” said Whitharral coach Joshua Jourden. “The guards especially did a good job of just pressuring, taking away the angles. They still got us in foul trouble, which we worried about, but they did such a good job on those others that I didn’t think one person could beat us.”
Davison added: “I thought we got some really good looks — whether it was Andrea Tippit flashing or Chelsea Moore flashing. Some nights, it just doesn’t go in the hole.”
Taylor Moore led Whitharral with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Mia Ochoa and Maeci Scott had 12 points apiece.
The loss marked the end of tremendous four-run by Saltillo, despite the Lady Lions failing to accomplish their ultimate goal.
“We were 125-16 over four years,” Davison said. “And this is the thing I’m most proud about: in those four years, the only school they lost two (in the playoffs) was the state champion — three times to Neches and once to Whitharral. Did we get the ending we wanted? No, we didn’t get the ending we wanted. When you get beat by the best team in the state all four years … it’s pretty special.”
Girls Class A Division II State Championship Game
At University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center
No. 2 Whitharral 45, No. 1 Saltillo 36
Whitharral 9 12 5 19 — 45
Saltillo 4 10 9 13 — 36
WHITHARRAL–Taylor Moore, 13; Mia Ochoa, 12; Maeci Scott, 12; Kalicia McCoy, 5; Deborah Albus, 2; Briana Magallanes, 1.
SALTILLO–Victoria Stretcher, 22; Kendall Bain, 7; Andrea Tippit, 4; Karli Brewer, 3.
RECORDS–Whitharral 38-4; Saltillo 32-6.