Ames is a four-year starter and played in 140 games in her career at Kerens. Over the past four seasons, she had fouled out only three times, and played 33 games this season without getting into foul trouble until Saturday.
“It was very frustrating,’’ said Ames, her voice barely a whisper and her face coated with tears. “I felt like I couldn’t play my game, worrying about the fouls.’’
The free throw shooting was so lopsided that Corsicana girls Coach Art Prevost, who was doing commentary on the radio for KAND, said: “Remind me never to use the Longview Chapter (of officials, who called the game).”
Kerens plays an unrelenting defense that forced 37 turnovers in the semifinal game and 138 turnovers over the final four games to get to the title game. Plains did a great job handling Kerens’ pressure but still committed 20 turnovers.
But Kerens shot just 25 percent from the floor and made only 4-of-28 3s, including some desperation 3s in the final minutes that allowed Plains to break a 39-39 tie in the final four minutes and put the game away with drives and free throws.
“We play a fast game and we took some quick shots at the end, but that’s our game,'' Lincoln said. "Our shots just weren’t falling.’’
By the time it was over Ames had fouled out and Baxter, Cambree Betts and Kiara Lindsey all had four fouls each. Betts finished with 10 points and five rebounds. Baxter finished with six points and six boards and Lindsey, a guard whose defense during the playoffs has been amazing, had three steals and seven rebounds. But Kerens never got into a rhythm and every time the LadyCats would put together a run, Plains would answer with more free throws. Riley Earnest led Plains (30-3) with 17 points, and nine of those came from the free throw line.
“I think the difference was the fouling,’’ said Marqueshia Kelly, who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds. “Getting this far is a big thing for our school. We wanted to win it.’’
“It’s going to make a difference,’’ she said of her kids being the first Kerens team (29-5) to play for a state title. “There are no regrets. At the end of the game whoever wins, wins. They played hard and never got down. They held their heads up high, and the young girls (in the stands) saw that. I am really proud of them. I just wish we would have finished.’’
Lincoln’s team was here in Austin two years ago and Ames, Kelly and Betts started as sophomores and Baxter started as a freshman on that team that left vowing to come back.
They kept that promise and swapped leads all day with Plains in a game that was tied seven times and had seven lead changes despite the lopsided free throw numbers.
The kids and coaches said all along they wanted to take care of “Unfinished Business,” and that became their mantra, their war cry as they marched through the playoffs, and into the title game with a determination and resolve that carried them and the Kerens community to the brink of a state championship.
Then they played their hearts out one more time.
They left in tears and with class …
Mike Phillips may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: email@example.com