SAN ANTONIO -- Woden learned Friday there's still a ways to go before it can claim its first girls basketball state championship. But it also got to see how much its first run past a regional tournament impacted the small community in Nacogdoches County as well as the alumni base that migrated elsewhere after graduation.

The Lady Eagles' tipped off in front of an Alamodome crowd of 4,187, about two-thirds of it supporting them, ahead of falling to Panhandle 62-37 in the Class 2A state semifinal round.

"Those fans have been with us everywhere we've been," coach Lance Taylor said. "We don't have football, so this is our go-to thing. They pack the stands night in and night out and truly impacted our play up until this point. They gave these girls motivation and helped us get over some tough teams."

The Alamodome is a 65,000-seat facility that was constructed to serve as a football and soccer stadium in addition to hosting the San Antonio Spurs from its opening in 1993 through 2002.

For the girls and boys state basketball tournaments, the stadium is configured to utilize the first of two tiers of permanent seating behind one of the end zones. A mix of permanent and temporary seating surrounds the other three sides of the court.

Woden's fans got the end zone seating. They looked like the crowd you would see on television during the Alamo Bowl when a team tries for a field goal.

No big swaths of empty seats. All dressed in black and gold.

"It was different," junior guard Britney Thompson said. "Very different than what we're used to. We loved it."

Panhandle (29-6), which is enjoying its sixth all-time state tournament appearance and advanced to Saturday's 1:30 p.m. state championship game, swiftly put Woden in a bad spot. It led 13-2 4:15 into the game.

The Lady Eagles (35-4) got back within seven points multiple times in the first and second quarters, but never any closer. Panhandle eventually built a 35-20 halftime lead and had a 24-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Woden struggled to get second-chance opportunities. Panhandle won 24 of 28 rebounds on its defensive side and also had five more rebounds on the Lady Eagles' end.

If that wasn't enough, Panhandle turned in a masterful performance from the field. It made 28 of 56 shots while Woden managed 11 baskets on 18 less chances.

Thompson tied for the game-high in points with 18, but the next closest Woden player scored seven points. Panhandle enjoyed three scorers working toward double digits.

"There's no doubt they jumped on us early and never looked back," Taylor said. "The experience definitely came into play. Of course, they're a very experienced and high-quality team. They outrebounded us (42-17) and shot the ball extremely well. Just flat out outplayed us today."

Woden might be back at the state level in future seasons. Seven of 14 players from its roster will return next fall, including four of five starters from the semifinal game.

Of the four starters from Friday slated to return, two will be sophomores and one will be a junior.

"We were underdogs all year," Taylor said. "We were picked third in our district. Not only did we split a district championship, we won the regional. We came a long way from third in our district."

No. 3 Panhandle 62, Woden 37

Class 2A State Semifinal Playoff Game
At The Alamodome, San Antonio

Panhandle           17        18       20        7   --     62
Woden                  8        12       11        6    --    37
Panhandle (29-6) -- Grace Kuehler 18, Macalle Melton 15, Rylee Albracht 12, Bree Baker 5, Lainey Choate 5, Masyn Reining 5, Hunter Heck 2.
Woden (35-4) -- Britney Thompson 18, Shelby Brookshire 7, Meagan Johnson 6, Reese Taylor 6.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Panhandle: Melton (2), Choate, Reining. Woden: Reese (2), Thompson (2), Brookshire.

More From East Texas Sports Network