Argyle’s Vivian Gray (12) drives around Liberty Hill’s Autumn Lange (14) during the UIL Girls State Basketball 4A semifinal at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Friday, March 4, 2016. (Stephen Spillman/Special Contributor)
Here we are, folks.
As many people expected, the rubber match is on: No. 1 Argyle (34-1) vs. No. 2 Waco La Vega (33-2), with tipoff set for 7 p.m. Saturday at San Antonio’s Alamodome.
And you can bet Argyle is expecting to see a heavy dose of pressure defense from the Lady Pirates for two reasons: That’s what La Vega does, and the Lady Eagles showed some vulnerability to Liberty Hill’s press in Friday’s semifinal.
Argyle’s Madison Ralston, who had nine points and three rebounds on Friday, said it herself in Friday night’s postgame press conference.
“Watching the game before us, that team [Abilene Wylie] couldn’t really handle their [La Vega] press, and I think we can handle it,” Ralston said.
That means Argyle will have to be more like it was in the second half of Friday’s game (four turnovers) than how the Lady Eagles played in the first half (11 turnovers). Argyle head coach Skip Townsend, who’s going for his eighth state title in 10 tournament appearances, said he thought the layoff since Argyle’s regional final win over Dallas Lincoln might’ve contributed to his team’s sloppiness, and Argyle wasn’t the only team affected by it.
“They’re known for their press,” Townsend said of Liberty Hill. “We haven’t had a lot of trouble with that. Dallas Lincoln pressed us last week, and we did a good job. They had a good scheme though and we figured it out the second half. We got some points off it in the second half.
“No excuses, but it’s tough when you haven’t played a game in [five] days, and I think you saw that from all four teams. I don’t think any of those teams played as well as they’re capable of playing. I think you’ll see kids play better tomorrow after having that game under their belt.”
For Argyle, that list will have to include sophomore point guard Gabby Standifer. The natural power forward, who’s been moonlighting as a point guard this year, stepped up big in the second half, hitting two straight 3-pointers to get some separation to start the fourth quarter. But she struggled in the first half with six turnovers, forcing Townsend to go more with star forward Vivian Gray bringing the ball up the floor in the second half.
Townsend and Gray both said Standifer was nervous early in Friday’s game, which is understandable when you consider this is his first go-round at the state tournament even though her teammates are all seasoned vets.
I’d expect to see more of a mix from the beginning with Standifer and Gray both handling the ball in the back court, especially if La Vega comes out and presses like it did against Wylie.
“She doesn’t mind being the go-to girl, and we don’t mind giving her the ball,” Townsend said of Gray, the nation’s 14th-ranked junior player.