UIL Girls Basketball State Tournament
Saturday's finals, Alamodome
(Schedule for San Antonio-area teams)
Class 4A semifinals: Veterans Memorial (33-9) vs. Argyle (33-7), 7 p.m. .
Class 6A semifinals: Judson (34-4) vs. Plano (34-6), 8:30 p.m.
Friday was a banner day for Judson ISD athletics, with two of its schools earning berths in the girls basketball state finals Saturday night at the Alamodome.
Veterans Memorial and Judson will play in the last two games of the University Interscholastic League State Tournament, which started Thursday.
Winding down its first varsity season, Veterans Memorial beat Denver City 57-51 in the Class 4A semifinals Friday afternoon, and will face three-time defending state champion Argle for the title Saturday at 7 p.m.
Judson capped the day's action with a hard-fought 71-66 victory against Garland Sachse, earning a spot in the 6A title game against Plano at 8:30.
Plano beat the Rockets 42-40 in the Duncanville Tournament on Nov. 25, and knocked off defending state champioin Duncanville 60-48 in the Region I-6A Tournament last week.
"We'll have our hands full," Judson coach Triva Corrales said. "They didn't have two of their star players when we played them. But you know what? At this point, anything is possible. We're here for a reason and they're here for a reason, and anybody can win it."
One of the storylines heading into the state tournament focused on the special bond Corrales and Judson coach Christina Camacho share. Corrales played for Camacho in middle school and high school, and was her top assistant coach at Wagner for five seasons before becoming head coach at Judson in 2010.
Camacho, 54, was 0-4 in the state tournament before Friday's victory. She guided Wagner to the semifinals in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2015, but came up empty each time.
Camacho was on hand to watch Judson beat Garland Sachse and congratulated Corrales.
"People kept saying the stars are aligned and it was our time," Camacho said. "I'm just honored and blessed to be sharing this stepping stone in our careers together."
Judson made its first state-tournament appearance last year, losing to perennial power Duncanville 53-41. The Pantherettes led only 25-24 at the half, but outscored the Rockets 15-4 in the third quarter to take control of the game.
Judson led Sachse 38-29 in the third quarter before the Mustangs went on a 17-2 to go ahead 46-40 with 3:07 left in the period. Corrales promptly called a timeout and got her players' attention with a stern talking-to.
Corrales said she thought the Rockets were being "very unselfish" on both ends of the court.
"Sometimes when kids do that, 16, 17-year-olds, are faced with adversity, sometimes they go back to what they know and a lot of that is just one-on-one stuff," Corrales said. "But one-on-one stuff at this level, at this stage in the playoffs, is not going to fly.
"Teams don't win with one-on-one players. They win with teams. It took us to let go of the selfishness and come together as a unit, play like that on the offensive end and the defensive end. That's what it took."
Sachse outscored the Rockets 21-10 in the third quarter to take a 48-45 lead into the final period. But Judson dug deep and outscored the Mustangs 26-18 in pivotal fourth.
Senior forward Desiree Lewis led the Rockets' scoring with 20 points and junior wing Kyra White added 13. Senior post Heaven Mburak, senior guard Corina Carter and freshman wing Kierra Sanderlin all finished with 12 points apiece.
"I think Heaven Mburak was a beast," Corrales said. "She was big defensively. She was awesome with rebounds, making free throws. Kyra is the calm before the storm. That kid is just the great equalizer. She's just poised. She's a coach's dream."
Lewis chuckled after the game when she was asked about the third-quarter timeout that brought the Rockets back into the fold.
"Oh, she definitely got on us," Lewis said. "We weren't playing to our fullest potential. We reverted back to each other. We leaned on one another. We came back as a team. This is a game of roller coasters and we know that. We knew where were going to be funs back and forth. We had to come together and it was teamwork that won it for us."
Updates for Judson-Garland Sachse Class 6A state semifinal
Final: Judson 71, Garland Sachse 66. Judson (34-4) plays Plano (34-6) for the Class 6A state championship Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Fourth quarter, 2:44: Judson 61, Sachse 59. Desiree Lewis has 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Rockets.
Fourth quarter, 3:49: Tied at 55-55. Judson is playing without guard Corina Carter, who fouled out in the third period.
Fourth quarter, 4:49: Judson 54, Sachse 51. The Rockets have scored five unanswered points since Kayla Demus hit a three-pointer to put the Mustangs up 51-49.
Fourth quarter, 6:48: Judson 49, Sachse 48. Freshman Kierra Sanderlin gives the Rockets the lead with a jumper just inside the free-throw line.
After three quarters: Sachse 48, Judson 45. The Mustangs outscored the Rockets 21-10 in the third period.
Third quarter, 3:04: Sachse 46, Judson 40. The Mustangs are on a 17-2 run, erasing what was a 38-29 Rockets lead.
Third quarter, 4:56: Judson 40, Sachse 38. Corina Carter is the Rockets' top scorer with 12 points on four three-pointers.
Halftime: Judson 35, Sachse 27
First-half notes: Judson led by eight at intermission despite committing 16 turnovers, nine in the second quarter . . . Guard Corina Carter led the Rockets' scoring with nine points on 3-of-6 shooting, all from the 3-point line.
Second quarter, 1:12: Judson 33, Sachse 27. The Rockets lead despite having 15 turnovers.
End of first quarter: Sachse 20, Judson 16. The Rockets finished the quarter with seven turnovers.
Denver City-Veterans Memorial updates
Final: Veterans Memorial 57, Denver City 51. Charlene Mass led the Patriots with 15, followed by Sahara Jones (14) and Arianna Aguirre (10). The victory is the first in the state tournament for Veterans Memorial, which opened in 2016 and is in its first season of varsity competition. Veterans Memorial (33-9) plays Argyle (33-7) for the Class 4A state championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Alamodome.
The Lady Eagles have won the 4A title each of the past three years and are in the state tournament for the seventh time. Argyle was state runner-up in 2014. The Lady Eagles defeated Houston Wheatley 62-46 in the other 4A semifinal Friday afternoon. State runner-up in 2014, Argyle is in the state tournament for the seventh time.
The victory is the first in the state tournament for Veterans Memorial coach Christina Camacho, who led Wagner to the state semifinals four times before leaving the Thunderbirds to start the Pats' program.
Fourth quarter, 48.8: Veterans Memorial 57, Denver City 51. Arielle Adams leads the Fillies with a game-high 16 points.
Fourth quarter, 2:10: Veterans Memorial 54, Denver City 48. The Fillies are on a 10-3 run since falling behind by 13 (51-38).
Fourth quarter, 4:28: Veterans Memorial 51, Denver City 41. Pats sophomore Sahara Jones has scored six of her 14 points in the period. Junior Arianna Aguirre has 10 points, five in this quarter, for Veterans Memorial. Junior Charlene Mass still leads all scorers with 15 points.
After three quarters: Veterans Memorial 43, Denver City 35. Junior guard Charlene Mass leads the Patriots with 15 points, and sister Ceyenne Mass and Sahara Jones have eight each.
Third quarter, 1:04: Veterans Memorial 43, Denver City 33. The Pats are on an 8-2 run. Pats junior guard Charlene Mass leads all scorers with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
Third quarter, 4:26: Veterans Memorial 31, Denver City 29. Charlene Mass leads the Pats with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting. She's also made her only three-point attempt.
Halftime: Veterans Memorial 28, Denver City 23
First-half notes: The Patriots trailed Denver City 16-15 after one quarter, but outscored the Fillies 13-7 in the second to up one at the half . . . Sisters Charlene Mass and Ceyenne Mass led the Veterans Memorial first-half with eight points apiece. Holly Hemmeline and Morgan Dial were the top scorers for Denver City with eight and six points, respectively . . . The Pats shot 47.6 percent (10/21) in the first two quarters. The Fillies hit 9 of 22 attempts for 40.9 percent.
Second quarter, 2:06: Veterans Memorial 26, Denver City 18. The Pats have outscored the Fillies 11-2 in the period.
Second quarter, 5:01: Veterans Memorial 20, Denver City 16. The Pats have outscored the Fillies 5-0 in the period.
After one quarter: Denver City 16, Veterans Memorial 15
Judson, Veterans Memorial savoring appearances in state tournament
UIL Girls Basketball State Tournament
(Results, schedule for San Antonio-area teams)
Class 5A semifinals: Mansfield Timberview 62, Kerrville Tivy 43, Thursday
Class 4A semifinals: Veterans Memorial (32-9) vs. Denver City (30-6), Friday, 3 p.m.
Class 6A semifinals: Judson (33-4) vs. Garland Sachse (30-7), Friday, 8:30 p.m.
Sister schools Judson and Veterans Memorial rode on the same bus Thursday afternoon when they took in a game on the first day of the UIL girls basketball state tournament at the Alamodome.
The experience was a new one for Veterans Memorial, which opened in 2016 and is the third high school in the Judson ISD. The Patriots are in their first season of varsity competition.
"Going down today to the Alamodome, we wanted to show them where they're going to be playing and how the atmosphere is," Camacho said Thursday night before a community pep rally for both teams at the Judson High School gym. "Them being so young, I keep saying I had to teach them the process. I had to explain to them how district works and what comes after that."
While the Patriots are new to the state tournament, Camacho has a team in the big show for the fifth time in her stellar career.
Veterans Memorial (32-9) plays Denver City (30-6) in the Class 4A state semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday, and Judson (33-4) faces Garland Sachse (30-7) in the 5A semifinals at 8:30.
Judson made its first state-tournament appearance last year, losing to perennial power Duncanville 53-41. The Pantherettes led only 25-24 at the half, but outscored the Rockets 15-4 in the third quarter to take control of the game. Duncanville did not reach the state tournament this year.
Cypress Creek (34-4) and Plano (33-6) meet in the other 6A semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday's winners meet for the 6A championship Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Houston Wheatley (31-3) plays Argyle (32-7) in the other 4A semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Friday. The 4A state final is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m.
Fittingly, Veterans Memorial and Judson would play the last two games of the tournament.
"That would be awesome," Veterans coach Triva Corrales said. "We plan to be there."
One of the storylines of the tournament is the special bond Corrales and Camacho share. Corrales played for Camacho in middle school and high school, and was her top assistant coach at Wagner for five seasons before becoming head coach at Judson in 2010.
Camacho, 54, is still seeking her first win in the state tournament. Wagner fell in the semifinals in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2015. Camacho expressed confidence she'll get the elusive "W" Friday.
"I think out of any of the times I've been to the state tournament, I truly believe, not that I never had that confidence before, but I believe something special can happen this time," Camacho said. "I gave our players our itinerary for Saturday. It has us practicing in the morning and a game at night.
Veterans Memorial advanced to the state tournament despite not having one senior on its roster.
"We're all different ages," said Patriots guard Charlene Mass, one of three juniors on the team. "Us being able to listen and still play together, and to play our game, just adjust to each other, and just all work hard, that's definitely the key on our team. The way we work together is something that teams can't take away."
Six sophomores and one freshman round out Veterans Memorial's 10-player roster. Camacho, who regularly played her entire roster in district games, had to go to her deep bench after three kep players fouled out of the Patriots' 61-57 overtime win over Wharton in the regional final.
Denver City is also making its first appearance in the state tournament. The Fillies beat Abilene Wylie 44-41 in the Region IV-4A title game.
"Very good shooters," Camacho said, when asked about Denver City's strengths. "They do press a little bit. Very fundamental, sound. Good team."
Veterans Memorial has won 16 consecutive games since losing to Midlothian 49-46 in the M.T. Rice Tournament on Dec. 29 in Waco.
"This is a great group of girls and they believed in the system and they believed in our process, and I couldn't ask for a greater bunch of kids. I think we've peaked a little bit and there's still a little bit more. It's been fun teaching them the culture and telling them about the experience they're about to have at the state tournament."
Judson punched its ticket to the state tournament with a 49-31 victory against Laredo Alexander in the Region IV-6A final. The Rockets have won 15 in a row since losing to rival Steele 55-53 on Jan 2.
"To see it in front of my eyes, and have these kids be able to make the state tournament and go back-to-back is special," Corrales said. "I dreamed of this as a seventh-grader. That's when I first knew I wanted to be a coach, and I started hanging around with the adults and less with the kids."
Corrales said she's been impressed by what she's seen of Garland Sachse on video. The Mustangs beat Pflugerville Hendrickson 67-63 in the Region III-6A title game to earn its first berth in the state tournament.
"Our girls have watched a lot of video," Corrales said. "We've prepared intensely. We've paid attention to detail, not just watched what plays they run. We break down personnel. They're fast, they're young. They play relentlessly, almost like they don't know that they're there, at this level, at the state tournament.
"They're playing like they have nothing to lose. I don't even know if they're grasping the concept of what they've done. You can tell by the way that they play. They're kind of like us last year."
Sachse plays aggressively on both ends of the court, Corrales said.
"Defensively, they play a lot of man and zone presses – full court, three quarter, half court. Once they go full court, you think you're done once you get past half court, but they're still going. They're still trapping, trapping. If we can handle their pressure and kind of wear them down, let them wear themselves down defensively, I think we'll be all right.
"I think it's important we don't panic. Everybody I've seen on film, the teams they're playing panic, panic, panic. We'll just have to keep control. They try to speed you up, but we have to play at our pace."
Judson returned seven players from last year's state-tournament team, including senior forward Desiree Lewis, senior center Heaven Mbaruk and junior guard/forward Kyra White. Also back were sophomore guard Keanalei Aukuso, senior forward Olivia Flowers, senior guard Victoria Gonzales and junior guard Tiffany McGarity.
"It's really special how we came together as a team, and made it all work," Lewis said. "Everyone is really excited. Knowing that we're going back again is a huge honor to us, and knowing that all the hard work has paid off."