ARGYLE — Against the top three teams in District 10-3A, Argyle had come up short each time.
The Lady Eagles needed to beat Celina in their final game of the regular season to still have a shot at the district’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
Argyle finally got the big win it needed Tuesday. Led by sophomore post player Delaney Sain’s 21 points, Argyle defeated Celina 44-38.
Argyle (26-6, 5-3 district) and Celina (25-6, 5-3) finished the year tied for second place in the district. Celina lost a coin flip following the game, meaning Argyle received the No. 2 seed and will play Sanger in the bi-district round of the Class 3A playoffs. Celina enters the playoffs with the No. 3 seed and will play Gainesville.
“This should give our girls some confidence, and we need confidence,” Argyle coach Skip Townsend said. “We haven’t played with a lot of confidence since we lost [forward] Kim Strelke to a knee injury back in the second district game.
“We’ve been rattled. We’ve been struggling, and this was a big win. And our kids really needed it. They needed a win. They needed a big win.”
Late in the fourth quarter, it looked as if the win could be slipping away.
Argyle took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter, but it slowly dwindled. Celina’s Sarah Cantu knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:14 left to cut Argyle’s lead to one, and Celina coach Jordan Davis called a timeout. Cantu scored all 10 of Celina’s points in the final quarter and finished with 23 points.
After missing their first four free throws of the quarter, the Lady Eagles knocked down five of their last six free throws to preserve the victory.
The first time the teams met, the Lady Cats needed overtime to defeat Argyle. Townsend said Sain did not play well in the loss.
On Tuesday night, Sain stepped up her level of play on both ends of the court.
“She played poorly at their place, and I think she remembered that tonight,” Townsend said. “She came out and had a good night for us. She really battled and did some things tonight — got in there and hustled a little bit tonight — and some of that made the difference.”
The Lady Eagles looked to find Sain in the post; she was guarded by Celina standout K.J. Stastny. When Argyle was able to get the ball in the paint to Sain, she delivered.
Sain shot 9-of-11 from the floor and collected six rebounds and two blocks.
“This game really meant something to all of us,” Sain said. “We needed all five players to really step it up in the game and we couldn’t have one player slacking off because we really needed to win.”
Down the stretch, Celina’s foul trouble caught up with the Lady Cats. Two starters, Stastny and Kinzie Juergens, fouled out in the fourth quarter.
The stakes riding on the game were seen in both head coaches’ emotions. Townsend lamented mistakes. Davis slammed her clipboard down twice in the final minute as her team walked to the bench during a timeout, down by four points.
“It’s only my second year here, but obviously the Argyle-Celina rivalry is pretty intense,” Townsend said. “I really didn’t understand that until we played them this year. That’s two teams and 10 girls out there that are playing their hearts out because they want to win this ballgame. That’s what makes high school sports and girls basketball so much fun to watch.”
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ARGYLE 44, CELINA 38
Celina (25-6, 5-3) — Sarah Cantu 23, K.J. Stastny 9, Kinzie Juergens 2, Alex Jones 4.
Argyle (26-6, 5-3) — Delaney Sain 21, Allea Harris 8, Jessie Sheridan 7, Morgan McInaney 4, Bailey Eschle 4.