While most of the programs across the state have become frustrated with Texoma Christian’s annual pilgrimage to the state tournament, a trip that normally ends with a trophy presentation to the Lady Eagles, there is one school that has to be beyond tired of TCS — and it’s not the one you might think.
Muenster Sacred Heart has become a heated district rival but Marble Falls Faith has suffered more at the hands of the Lady Eagles’ dominance for the past decade.
And suffer is an apt description for these meetings from the Lady Flames’ perspective.
As Texoma Christian (24-6) prepares to defend its crown in pursuit of a seventh championship — a sixth in seven years — Marble Falls Faith (28-4) will be the opponent for the fourth time at the state tournament in a TAPPS Class 2A semifinal at 4:30 p.m. today at Mansfield Legacy.
The winner will face either New Braunfels Christian or Schertz John Paul II for the state championship at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
“You know what Marble Falls is going to bring to the table. And they know what we’re going to bring,” Texoma head coach Mark Ellison said. “When we saw we had to play Marble Falls, they knew it was going to be a tough game.”
This a re-match from last year’s semifinal when the Lady Eagles came from behind in the latter stages of the fourth quarter and then held on for a 46-43 victory against the Lady Flames. TCS held Marble Falls Faith scoreless for the final three minutes to advance and go on to win the title over Boerne Geneva.
“Last year we only beat them by three,” senior forward Haylie Ross said. “It makes us want to start the game faster. We know we have to give our best effort.”
The previous two meetings were equally painful for the Lady Flames. TCS won the 2011 title — the last of four straight championships — over Marble Falls Faith by nine points. The start of that run came because of a 58-56 overtime victory against the Lady Flames in 2008.
Dynasties are tough to maintain and the contests prove it. Only a handful of possessions swung three championships from one side to another.
Two years ago Texoma Christian lost in the semifinals. It was the only time since 2005 that the Lady Eagles have not at least advanced to the championship game and it ended the run of titles. Many on the Texoma Christian roster from that year made it their mission to get back to the top and were able to accomplish their goal.
“Holding that trophy gives us the motivation to do it again. The pressure is hard because everyone expects us to get here but we worked hard to get back,” Ross said. “Hopefully all our hard work pays off.”
Texoma Christian, which earned the top seed out of District 1-2A with a tie-breaking victory over Sacred Heart, had a bye to start the playoffs and then won a pair of lopsided games to get back to state. The Lady Eagles defeated Dallas Lakehill, 69-48, and then topped Temple Holy Trinity, 52-15, earlier this week.
“The seniors want to go out on top. No one wants to end the season in the final four with a loss,” Ellison said. “It makes my job easier.”
In the victory over Holy Trinity, when TCS led 45-9 at half-time, Hannah Bentsen had 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals, Emily McCarthy chipped in 14 points, four assists and four steals, Tori Powers scored eight points and Ross finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
“I knew we were going to to be good but it was going to take a lot of work to get back there,” McCarthy said. “It’s just as exciting if not more exciting than last time.”
The Lady Eagles’ path to state could have been changed if they hadn’t won the district tie-breaker.
“If you didn’t get first place in district, you were going to have to face Marble Falls in the regional,” Ellison said. “We wanted to make sure we got them in the semis.”
Texoma Christian opened district with a loss to Sacred Heart and the Lady Eagles knew they had to win the rematch to have a chance at avoiding a tougher portion of the bracket. The losses against each other were the only ones the teams suffered in district.
“It really put things in perspective,” McCarthy said. “It showed us we were going to have to work harder than we thought.”
A large portion of the responsibility fell on a backcourt that underwent several changes. Kathryn Sild and Marina Montano graduated. Lillie Monk, a returning starter, was lost to a season-ending injury less than two weeks into the season. And Kiersten Goff joined the mix after transferring from Carrollton Christian.
“We didn’t really know what she was going to do. She stepped right in and filled a role,” Ellison said. “Emily McCarthy has played the best ball I’ve seen in three years. Our guard play has really stepped up this year.”
Goff has taken over some point guard duties, Powers shifted into more of a two-guard role and McCarthy has blossomed with extended minutes.
“In the past years, defense has been my main thing. I’ve never been much of a scorer,” McCarthy said. “I’ve gotten more comfortable in that role. Somebody was going to have to step in and fill that gap we had.”
Marble Falls Faith also opened the postseason with a bye and then beat one of Texoma Christian’s districtmates, Abilene Christian, 57-29, before a region final win over DeSoto Canterbury, 63-40, earlier this week.
Sophomore forward Hannah Cozby led the way with 22 points, four rebounds and a pair of blocks while Joanna Piatek added 12 points and Juliette Fisher totaled 10 points and seven rebounds.
“We looked at film from last year, got some film in from some games this year,” Ellison said. “They play good man-to-man defense. They want to slow it down. We want to push it.”