SAN ANTONIO — Judson sophomore guard Kierra Sanderlin had some kind of coming-out party Friday night at the Alamodome, scoring 26 points to lead the Rockets to a 58-47 win over Allen in the Class 6A state semifinals.
Judson (37-5) will play DeSoto (33-6) for the 6A state championship at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Alamodome, where the UIL girls state tournament has been played since 2015. DeSoto beat Humble Summer Creek 58-49 in the second semifinal.
"It feels good but we're not done yet," said Judson senior guard Kyra White, who has signed with USC. "We have a whole other game, four quarters left to prove ourselves and prove why we're state champions."
The Eagles will face a Judson team that's in the state final for the second consecutive season. The Rockets lost to Plano 62-58 last year and made the state tournament for the first time in 2017.
"That's been in the back of our minds all year," senior guard Corina Carter said, referring to the loss in the title game. "We just don't want to let up again this year. We want to won it all."
No San Antonio-area team has ever won a girls basketball state championship in the University Interscholastic League's largest classification.
"What happened to us the past two years, I think everyone in this room, including myself, knows that doors have been closed on us before," Judson coach Triva Corrales said during the Rockets' postgame session with the media. "You've just to keep knocking and knocking until you eventually bust it down.
"I tell the kids, 'Don't stay hungry. Stay starving.' Because when you're hungry, you get satisfied. We are a team right now that is starving and we want that championship ring."
Judson pushed the pace from the get-go and never let up despite playing only five players. That's right. Corrales played her starters for the entire game.
"It's not anything new that we're not accustomed do," Corrales said. "We're used to having to work extra hard."
On a night when White scored only two points, Sanderlin hit 11 of 18 shots and outscored highly regarded Allen senior Nyah Green, who finished with 21 points.
Green, who has signed with Louisville, hit 8 of 16 shots and also finished with nine rebounds and three steals.
"With Sanderlin, I think that with these three young ladies right here, they draw a lot of attention," Corrales said, referring to White, Carter and Tiffany McGarity, who also spoke to the media. "A lot of people, unfortunately, or fortunately for us, sleep on her. She's a phenomenal athlete and she's a rising star for sure."
Sanderlin was not made available to talk with the media after the game.
Carter scored 14 points and was the only other Judson player in double figures. McCarity led the Rockets in rebounding with nine, and Sanderlin and Teanna Huggins had seven boards each.
Tyler Jackson finished with 18 points for Allen (33-7) and was the only other Eagles player besides Green to hit double digits. Allen was in the state tournament for the first time.
"First time being here, we made a lot of mistakes that we typically don't make," Allen coach Teresa Durham said. "A lot of it is just the inexperience of playing on a bigger stage. But Judson did a good job in what they do. Again, we just had too many turnovers (15) and we didn't rebound the ball well tonight."
The Rockets outrebounded the taller Eagles 37-32 and seemed to get every loose ball from the opening tipoff to the final buzzer.
"We've been undersized all year," Corrales said. "That's nothing new for us. When it comes to rebounding, that's one thing we learned from the state championship last year. If we do not get that one intangible done, we will not win the basketball game. I thought we did a heck of a job doing that tonight."
Carter made it clear the Rockets weren't about to be denied under the boards.
"We know that every possession, we have to get every rebound because of last year," Carter said. "We will not let history repeat itself. We will get every rebound and outhustle our opponent."
Allen drew to within four in the third quarter, but Judson took a 42-36 lead into the final period. The biggest play of the game might have been Carter's block of a layup by Tyler Jackson with Judson ahead 34-30 and 2:54 remaining in the third quarter.
"I usually give up on those, but I knew that I couldn't do it this time," Carter said. "My team needed me and that's what really gets us going. That gets me going. It gets me more excited and more pumped."
Huggins rebounded the block for the Rockets and Sanderlin scored on a layup at the other end to make it 36-30.
The Eagles never got closer than five the rest of the way. The Rockets' biggest lead was 12 points, 19-7, with 6:39 left in the second quarter.
Judson shot 45.1 percent overall (23-51) and hit just 2 of 15 three-pointers. Allen made 18 of 53 field-goal attempts for 34 percent and was 4 of 18 from beyond the arc.
The Rockets took it to the Eagles in the first half, leading 25-18 at the break. Sanderlin led Judson with 10 points and Carter had seven.
Green paced Allen with 10 points in the first half, hitting 4 of 9 shots. The Eagles had problems with Judson's full-court defensive pressure from the opening tip, coughing up 11 turnovers in the first half.
The Rockets' quickness and athletic ability seemed to catch Allen off guard. Judson got in the passing lanes consistently and disrupted the Eagles' offense.
"Defense is how I think we started going in the game," McGarity said. "Once we started getting stops and being able to run and started playing our game and what we were comfortable with, I think that's what really got us going. Defense has been a big part all year, putting pressure and being able to run and go."
Judson shot 35 percent overall (11-31) in the first half, but was only 1 of 12 from beyond the arc. The Rockets won the rebounding battle 22-13.