Faith girls reach TAPPS state tournament (video)
MOULTON - Senior Bianca Sanchez didn't play a big role in last year's one-and-done playoff run for Faith Academy.
Tuesday night, here, she played the biggest role.
With two minutes left in the game, Sanchez grabbed a loose rebound in the paint, took a step back and made the easy layup that propelled the 19th-ranked Lady Cougars to a 42-34 victory over No. 10 Austin Waldorf.
"Right now, we're super excited," Sanchez said with a beaming smile. "We're happy everything we've worked for has paid off."
Faith (25-13) prevented any late game heroics by the Lady Roadrunners (26-9), holding them scoreless for the final 4:40 of the game. The Lady Cougars, who shot just 50 percent from the free throw line during the season, made 11 of 14 free throws and outscored Waldorf 14-0 down the stretch.
"I just wanted to get the lead," Sanchez said. "Whenever we're down and somebody makes a shot, it sets the pace for us. That's what I wanted to do and we did exactly that."
The Lady Cougars now move on to the TAPPS state tournament at Lake Ridge High School in Mansfield, beginning with the semifinal game on Friday at 6 p.m. and the finals on Saturday.
"This is great. I'm so happy for these girls right now," Faith head coach Dusty Lemke said. "These girls have worked hard all year in practice, and they've fought the entire way. To see them accomplish this is the best feeling a coach can have."
Despite the eight-point victory, the game was much closer. In fact, the Lady Cougars were on the losing end for most of the game.
Faith found itself down 34-27 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter and, after back-to-back turnovers, was still down by 34-28 with 3:42 left to play.
With a jumpstart from senior Courtne Grevey, the Lady Cougars began their 14-0 run, which was helped by a shooting foul and technical foul on Waldorf. Senior Sarah Alex made both of her free throws to tie the game at 34-34.
"We lost a couple games because of free throws," Lemke said. " We've made it a point of emphasis. Free throws will not cost us another game and we made them Saturday and here tonight."
Early on, the game itself was close with the largest lead of the first half (3-0) going to the Lady Roadrunners in the opening minutes. The Lady Cougars didn't help their cause in the first half, turning the ball over 10 times.
"A lot of that was their defense," Lemke said. "We were finally able to settle down in the second half and do what we do. When we were finally able to do that, we started playing better."
Junior Maegan Wilkinson showed her dominant potential in the early portion of the second half, grabbing all but a couple rebounds before getting some rest later in the quarter.
"I was just praying to God on the bench," Wilkinson said. "He gave me the strength to go out there."
Grevey and Alex led Faith in scoring with 11 points each. Wilkinson and Tiffany Kremling each had seven. Emma Graves led Waldorf in scoring with eight points.