Judson races to third straight UIL state berth
The Judson Rockets spent two days scorching the nets at Northside Gym. Following their 71-44 victory over Clark on Saturday, they got to cut one down.
The Rockets earned it after defeating the Cougars for the Region IV-6A title as they qualified for their third straight UIL state tournament. Pairings for the state tournament, which is being held at the Alamodome, will be released Sunday.
“I feel like we all brought our hearts together and our hustle and played united as one,” said Corina Carter, Judson’s New Mexico-bound senior point guard.
Carter led the Rockets (36-5) with 25 points. Like she did during Judson’s 87-55 victory over Laredo United in the regional semifinals Friday, Carter helped establish the Rockets’ full-throttle attack early.
Judson led 7-1 after the first 90 seconds. Clark tied the game at 11 at the 3:15 mark on a runner by Ta’Niya Jackson, but the Rockets finished the quarter with a 15-7 run.
“We like to run the floor,” said Judson senior forward Tiffany McGarity, a UT-Rio Grande Valley commit. “That’s our comfort zone. When they started getting their runs, it didn’t really hurt us that much. We’re kind of used to it. Basketball is a game of runs. We just have to stay comfortable and not give up on your team.”
Carter’s 3-pointer gave the Rockets a 31-18 lead early in the second quarter, but the Cougars (33-3) pulled to within 35-32 with 1:21 left to play in the second on Cassie Bell’s layup.
The Rockets scored the first 10 points in the third quarter to seal the regional title as Clark scored just 12 points in the second half. Jackson, Clark’s leading scorer who is signed with Incarnate Word, had 14 points - all in the first half.
Judson’s senior guard/forward Kyra White, who is signed with Southern Cal, had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Kierra Sanderlin had 13 points.
“We came in with a game plan knowing we can fight hard, and we could hang with them,” Clark coach Rihana Houy said. “At the end of the day, we had difficulty guarding (Carter) and (Sanderlin). They got a lot of layups on us. We missed a lot of put-backs and easy shots, too, that I’m sure if we could go back and change, we would.”
The Rockets made 28 of 54 shots from the field (51 percent). Against United on Friday, the Rockets were 39 of 62 (62 percent) from the field, including 26 of 30 (86 percent) in the first half.
“It helps us a lot because we are dictating the way the game is going,” White said of Judson’s fast starts. “We don’t want anyone to dictate what we do on the offensive end or the defensive end.”
The Rockets return to state a season after losing to Plano, 62-58, in the Class 6A championship. White, Carter, McGarity and Sanderlin played in last season’s tournament.
“I feel like that loss actually improved us and it made us realize we are a much better team this year,” Carter said. “It didn’t come easy, and it didn’t come overnight. We all executed over the year and we brought it together today.”
Sophomore guard Sydney Solitaire also added 14 points for Clark, which advanced to the regional finals for the first time in program history and set a school record for most wins in a season.
“I’m proud of these guys and the way they played with so much heart and passion,” Houy said.