By Pat Turner
Clark added the finishing touch on its goal of winning a District 28-6A championship this past week with a 75-29 whipping of Warren.
While the Cougars (29-2, 17-1) were wrapping things up, Brandeis (26-3, 16-2) and O’Connor (24-8, 14-4) were following suit for the second and third post-season stops. At the same time, Stevens claimed the fourth spot.
However, Stevens’ clinching happened in a unique way. The Falcons (18-13, 11-7) went into the final game holding onto fourth place with Brennan (17-11, 10-8) breathing down their necks. A Stevens loss and Brennan win would have put the two teams in a tie. That scenario would have given the Bears the playoff spot since they swept the Falcons during district play.
Despite falling to O’Connor, 55-46, Stevens received a huge gift from Holmes (20-10, 10-8), which handed Brennan a 49-47 setback.
Now, the Falcons, who play District 27-6A champion Churchill in the opener Monday, look to make the most of their opportunity.
The Falcons (18-13, 11-7) have grown during coach Kathleen Moroney’s first year. They’ve been competitive throughout district play behind sharp from Destiny Jenkins, T’Kiya Smith, Jade Mitchell, Kyrstin Castaneda, Ayana Parham and Davi Jones.
“I am so proud of this team,” Moroney said. “We have come a long way from where we started. They’re very coachable and they work hard. The big game changer came during the Christmas holidays. We had a big shift and I could see it in practice. Then, we got a big win over Brandeis. We built up momentum and the kids started getting confidence. It got going and became comfortable.”
Clark has been rolling the entire season. The only losses came to Brandeis during non-district play and the second round of 28-6A. Other than the two hiccups, the Cougars have powered their way to impressive wins.
A challenge came midway through district when point guard Jessica Paz Y Puente was injured. The Cougars bonded together and continued to produce wins in dominating fashion around a lineup featuring Ta’Niya Jackson, Rachel Lee, Cassie Bell, Sydney Solitaire, Madeline Gomez, Hailey Adams and Kendall Young.
That’s the way things went in the finale as Clark zipped to a 30-2 lead in the first quarter. Now, the stakes are higher, but the Cougars appear ready for whatever comes their way.
The trek begins Tuesday against Johnson at NISD.
“The girls have worked really hard this season,” Clark coach Rihana Houy. “I’m really proud of them with that they have accomplished. We feel good going into the playoffs. We’re finding a rhythm. The big thing is the chemistry. It’s really a fun group to coach.”
Brandeis and O’Connor looked sound in their regular season finales.
The Broncos, who play Reagan Tuesday at Northside, strolled to a 70-38 win over Taft, thanks to a 25-6 run in the second period.
Brandeis’ steady combination of Claire Hale (18 points), Alexis Parker (16 points) and Sophia Haberer (13 points) was once again a factor.
The Broncos have been on a tear since an opening second-round loss to Stevens, with the biggest win coming against Clark.
O’Connor was relied on a strong second half to pull away from Stevens.
Holding an 18-16 lead in the first quarter, Nicole Hemphill, who finished with 23 points, and Shannon Bowden (19 points) sparked the offense. However, taking control defensively was the major difference as the Panthers held the Falcons to two points in the second period while building a 31-18 lead.
That proved to be the difference in the long run.
The Panthers look for that consistency in their bi-district matchup with MacArthur.
“We’ve had ups and downs,” O’Connor coach Karmen Wilson. “I think we’re beginning to realize we have to be strong on defense. We’re getting better. We’re having several players contribute. If someone is having a bad game shooting the ball, someone else steps up.”
Harlan (24-8, 14-2) has made an impression during its rookie season at the varsity level.
Even though its all new, the Hawks have acted like they have been there before. They showed that ability during their run to the District 28-5A championship and look to carry that momentum into the playoffs, which begin against Sam Houston Monday.
The Hawks tuned up for the post-season with a 44-36 win over Southwest in the final district outing.