By Steve Gamel, Staff Writer
COMMERCE — There was no sugar coating in Argyle coach Skip Townsend’s postgame speech Friday night. The message was simple and straightforward.
The Lady Eagles’ 61-32 dismantling of Gilmer in the Class 4A Region II semifinals meant only one team stood in the way of Argyle and a second straight state tournament appearance. Townsend didn’t need to remind his players who that team was.
Argyle (29-5) meets Celina (32-4) at noon today in the region final at Texas A&M-Commerce. It is the second straight year these longtime rivals have met in a region final.
“I told them, ‘Here we are, right where we expected to be,’” Townsend said. “It’s going to come down to which team wants to be at state the most. And I challenged them by asking, ‘Is it us or them?’ I do believe these are the two best teams in the region. We’ll find out.”
Celina made quick work of Canton, 79-50, in its semifinal game to help set up what is essentially a rubber match with Argyle. Both teams split the District 9-4A series this season with blowout wins over the other. Argyle is ranked No. 3 by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, but No. 7 Celina is no slouch.
The rematch also possesses a bit of intrigue. Last year’s Class 3A region final, a game Argyle won in double overtime, was marred when referees blew a whistle on a last-second 3-pointer by Celina’s Kynese Davis and left the court without providing an explanation.
Davis’ shot fell short of the net as she hit the ground, and a video on YouTube shows players from both teams reacting as if it were a costly foul. The referees left the court and the game was over.
The outcome was so controversial that the UIL issued a statement saying the decision was a judgment call and was not subject for review.
Argyle went on to the state final, where it lost to Waco La Vega. Judging by the way the Lady Eagles have played lately, they’ll be hard to beat in their quest for one more crack at a state title.
Vivian Gray scored 17 points on Friday and helped hold Gilmer (24-9) to 18 points through the first three quarters. In four playoff games, the Lady Eagles have combined to outscore opponents 284-102.
“I don’t think we’ve been beating bad teams; I just believe our girls are playing real good right now,” Townsend said. “This isn’t a one person team. We’ve shown that everyone on this team can score. It has made it [playoff run] very fun.”
“I think we’re better prepared after what happened last year,” she said.
Madison Ralston finished with 10 points — all in the first half — as Argyle jumped out to a 15-3 lead after the first eight minutes. Ralston scored eight of her team’s points during a 16-4 run to open the second quarter.
Argyle 61, Gilmer 32
Argyle (29-5) — Vivian Gray 17, Jesse Sheridan 8, Madison Ralston 10, Delaney Sain 4, Olivia Gray 2, Claire Betzhold 5, Brittany Hamilton 6, Jocelyn Pierce 4, Kayla Haynes 3, Madison Stapleton 2.
Gilmer (24-9) — Jameekia Homer 16, Erica Wesley 5, Christian Brown 7, Tyler Criddle 2, Destiny Brooks 2.
Alright folks! It’s game time here in Commerce. Yes, yours truly made the trek out here to Texas A&M-Commerce for tonight’s Class 4A Region II semifinals. Game 1 (6 p.m. start) pits Celina against Canton. Game 2 (8 p.m. start) is, of course, the Argyle girls taking on Gilmer. The winners from tonight’s slate of games will meet in the final tomorrow at noon.
Below is a running blog of tonight’s games. Keep looking for updates throughout the night from me. After all the dust settles, I’ll post a recap game story to this blog.