Lady Indians champions again!
In the end it came down to fundamentals — which Lipan basketball teams have done so well over the years.
Lipan’s Lady Indians (35-3) won their third state championship and second in the past three seasons Saturday, going 8-for-8 at the free throw line in the final 1:02 to defeat last year’s state champion Gruver (30-6) 53-48 in the Class 2A state final at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Hanna Gaylor was 6-for-6 in that span. In all, the Lady Indians were 19-of-23 at the foul line.
“That’s a lot of pressure, for them to be able to step up and handle it, that was just amazing,” Lipan head coach Amber Branson said.
Also, in the final 22 seconds, the Lady Indians forced the Lady Hounds into missing a pair of layups. They outscored Gruver 11-4 in the final 1:52.
“It feels like a dream, all praise to God,” coach Branson said. “I know it’s just a basketball game, but it means so much to our town, it means so much to these girls, right now it’s just kind of surreal.”
Senior Chelsea Lott led Lipan in her final game with 16 points, six rebounds and three steals. Lott was named as the Most Valuable Player of the championship game, and Taylor Branson — daughter of the head coach — joined her on the state all-tournament team along with two players from Gruver and one from state semifinalist Hearne.
Lott’s day included three clutch three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“I looked up at the scoreboard and thought, ‘Why not?’ So I let it fly,” Lott said. “And everyone said, ‘Well, you made that one, next one’s going to go in, too.’ I wanted to win real bad, so I was doing it.”
Also, sophomore Taylor Branson held Gruver standout Brenlee Butler — who is going to play for Oklahoma State University — to six points.
“All year long Taylor has done that to people,” coach Branson said. “This kid was a rock star today.”
The win was the second nail-biter in two days for the Lady Indians, who defeated Martin’s Mill 32-31 in Friday’s semifinal.
“We talked about both days just riding the wave, whether we’re up on top or down, just riding because we knew it was going to be back and forth,” coach Branson said.
The major difference in the game was at the free throw line. Gruver was 11-of-16. Otherwise, each team made 11 two-point baskets, Lipan had four threes and Gruver had five.
And while Gruver had a 26-21 rebound advantage, Lipan only turned the ball over five times while forcing 13 miscues.
Along with Lott, Lady Indian seniors include Madison Harrison, Jolie Russell, Lynsey Little, Savannah Green, Ellie Peacock and Trinity Benitez. Their roster also featured five juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.
The Lady Indians previously won state championships in 2016 and 2021.
Lipan ended the season with a 16-game win streak and ended Gruver’s run of 17 in a row.
Lipan 32, Martin’s Mill 31
Sometimes it’s not how much you score, but when you score.
And Lynsey Little scored her only two points of the game Friday, March 3, at a time the Lady Indians needed them most.
In a game that was every bit as close as the score indicates, the Lady Indians held off their rival to return to the state final. Neither team had a lead of more than five points in the contest.
With 5:09 remaining in the game, the Lady Mustangs scored to take a 31-28 lead on a three-pointer by Kate Lindley. It would be their final points of the season.
Taylor Branson pulled the Lady Indians to within a point with a jumper at the 3:19 mark, aided by an assist from Little. Then, after a steal by Branson, Little scored the game-winning points on a layup with 2:25.
From there, Lipan used its stern defense to hold on. Possible go-ahead scoring opportunities for Martin’s Mill were averted with steals by Branson and Chelsea Lott.
From the time of Little’s basket to the end of the game, Martin’s Mill managed a single shot. That was coming out of a timeout following a missed Lipan free throw and a Lady Mustangs rebound with five seconds left.
“It was a battle of two great teams,” coach Branson said. “Both teams were well-prepared, worked hard. It was just a fun game.”
Lipan used a 9-2 run over the second quarter to go up 19-15 at the half. The Lady Indians led 28-26 entering the final quarter.
“It’s too bad someone had to lose,” coach Branson said of Saturday’s game, adding with a smile, “I’m glad it wasn’t us.”
The statistics were, likewise, virtually even. Lipan shot 33% from two-point range (6-of-18), compared to 35% for Martin’s Mill (8-of-23). The Lady Indians shot 35% from three-point distance (6-of-17) and the Lady Mustangs hit 31% (5-of-16). Lipan had seven turnovers to nine for Martin’s Mill, and the Lady Mustangs held a 26-25 rebound advantage.
And while neither team did much at the free throw line, Lipan did make two of its six attempts compared to not sending the Lady Mustangs to the foul line the entire game. The Lady Indians committed just seven fouls in the contest, compared to 11 for Martin’s Mill.
That was a stark contrast to their first meeting, a 49-45 Lady Mustangs victory, when the two met in Martin’s Mill on Nov. 19 and combined to shoot 54. Lipan hit 13-of-22 free throws that day and the Lady Mustangs made 19-of32.
Class 2A Girls State Basketball Tournament
Alamodome, San Antonio
Friday, March 3
Lipan (34-3) 32, Martin’s Mill (31-7), 31
Gruver (30-5) 45, Hearne (33-9) 32
Lipan box score
Martin’s Mill 13 2 11 5 — 31
Lipan 10 9 9 4 — 32
Lipan scoring: Hanna Gaylor 10, Taylor Branson 8, Ashlyn Clark 5, Chelsea Lott 4, Trinity Benitez 3, Lynsey Little 2.
Lipan rebound leaders: Madison Harrison 5, T. Benitez 4.
Lipan assists leader: T. Benitez 3.
Lipan steals leader: Branson 3.
Saturday, March 4
Lipan (35-3) 54, Gruver (30-6) 48
Lipan box score
Gruver 10 10 12 16 — 48
Lipan 11 11 12 19 — 53
Lipan scoring: Lott 16, Branson 12, T. Benitez 10, Gaylor 8, Little 5, Clark 2.
Lipan rebounds leader: Lott 6.
Lipan assist leaders: Branson 3, Little 3.
Lipan steals leader: Lott 3.
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