SAN ANTONIO — Kerrville Tivy's girls basketball season ended Thursday night where it did last year – one victory short of the championship game.
Frisco Liberty senior guard Randi Thompson led all scorers with 16 points and had six steals, keying the Redhawks' 34-28 win over the Lady Antlers in the Class 5A girls basketball semifinals at the Alamodome.
Liberty (32-10) will play Amarillo (36-4) for the 5A championship Saturday at 3 p.m.
Tivy (37-2) lost in the semifinals for the third time in four tournament appearances. The Lady Antlers lost in the 2006 final.
"These girls have worked extremely hard," Tivy coach Christy Dill said. "Sometimes things don't end the way we want. That was a really good team. They were well coached. They played hellacious defense. They got after it.
"They hit the shots they needed to hit. We weren't able to do the same throughout the game. I'm proud of the girls for fighting."
The University Interscholastic League state tournament tipped off Thursday morning at the Alamodome and ends with the 6A title game Saturday night.
With Thompson the only Liberty player who scored in double-figures, the Redhawks relied on their defense to earn a spot in the state final for the second time in four years. Liberty lost in the championship in 2016, when it reached the state tournament for the first time in school history.
From the opening tipoff to the final buzzer, the Redhawks' smothering defense cut off Tivy at every turn. The Lady Antlers coughed up 20 turnovers that Liberty converted into 18 points.
Tivy shot only 34.5 percent (10-29) from the field and was 0 of 9 from the three-point line.
Senior center Catherine Kaiser and senior guard/forward Charli Becker led the Lady Antlers' scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Kaiser also finished with a game-high 11 rebounds.
Dill said Liberty had a "great" game plan to keep Kaiser, who is 6-foot-3, in check.
"We tried to get some set plays for her," Dill said. "It worked sometimes, and again, they did a good job of rotating. They had help side quite a bit. They doubled down on her. They did an outstanding job. They had a great game plan."
Kaiser was succinct in describing how the Redhawks guarded her.
"Every time I got the ball, it seemed like there were two people on me," Kaiser said.
For the first time this season, Tivy had to battle through injuries. Becker was not at full speed after spraining an ankle Monday in practice, and junior forward Audrey Robertson left Thursday's game in the first quarter with a sprained ankle. She did not play again.
"Our rotation was already slim and then it got slimmer in that game," Dill said. "But (Liberty is) a well-coached team. They got after us, and played great defense."
Becker was asked how she felt when Robertson was injured.
"I mean, it's hard, especially when it's one of your key players on both ends of the floor," Becker said. "You've just got to keep going. Somebody else has got to step up and fill her shoes."
Dilley said Robertson "is good for probably 10 points a night. To me, it was a big loss, but we didn't sit there and well on it. Presleigh Way and did an outstanding job, especially on the defensive end."
The Lady Antlers' played good defense themselves. In fact, Liberty's 31.6 shooting percentage (12-38) was worse than Tivy's. But the Redhawks nailed four three-pointers.
"In our program, I tell them daily that there are going to be nights where the ball's just not going to fall," Dill said. "But there's never a night where we shouldn't be able to get out there and gut it out, and play great defense.
"My girls did an outstanding job of rotating that first quarter. We didn't exactly find the corners. We didn't close out on them quick enough, but we made some adjustments and we were able to do it."
With the Lady Antlers trailing 27-25 heading into the fourth quarter, Kaiser sank two free throws to tie the score with 6:35 left. It stayed that way until senior guard Kailyn Lay completed a three-point play after getting fouled on a layup with 4:35 remaining.
Liberty went up 32-27 on a layup by Thompson with 1:39 left, but Becker made one of two free throws to make it a four-point game 26 seconds later. Tivy had its chances down the stretch, but the Redhawks' defense refused to crack.
"It is frustrating," Becker said, when she was asked about Tivy's inability to get a go-ahead basket. "But you've just got to keep going. It's basketball. Things aren't always going to go your way, so you've just got to keep pushing and keep going. Make it up on the other end. If you can't do something on one end, make it up on the other."
Liberty senior forward Savannah McKeen scored the game's last points on a fast-break layup with 15 seconds left.
Thompson scored 11 points to help Liberty take a 23-18 lead at the half. Thompson hit 4 of 9 shots, including 2 of 5 from the three-point line. MaKenzi Glover had seven points for the Redhawks.
Liberty led 15-10 after one quarter and the teams played to an 8-8 standoff in the second. The Redhawks were ahead for 14:55 of the first half.
Tivy did not have a double-figure scorer in the first half. Kaiser led the Lady Antlers with eight points and four rebounds.
Liberty shot 42.9 percent overall (9-21) in the first half and was 44.4 percent (4-9) from beyond the arc.
The Lady Antlers shot about the same percentage as the Redhawks in the first two quarters, making 7 of 17 shots (41.2 percent). But Tivy was off the mark from the three-point line, missing all six of its attempts.