KRUM — No matter what happens over the next three days, the Krum Lady Cats’ season will end in Austin. The only lingering question is whether the team will return from the state capital with the state’s grandest prize.
Krum is one of four teams left in the Class 3A girls playoffs and is making only its second state tournament appearance today when the Lady Cats face the Mexia Ladycats at the Frank Erwin Center on the University of Texas campus. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., with the winner of the semifinal contest going on to face either Kennedale (30-6) or Smithville (29-7).
The last time the Krum girls played in the UIL state tournament was in 1982, when the Lady Cats lost to Nazareth in the Class A state semifinals.
Krum, the District 9-3A and Region II champions, clinched its spot among the final four teams with victories over Texarkana Liberty-Eylau and Pittsburg in the regional tournament last weekend.
But Krum head coach Lana Degelia is quick to point out her squad can’t repeat the sluggish starts that plagued the Lady Cats in the regional tournament.
“You’re down to the final four, and you have to play for 32 minutes,” Degelia said. “You can’t afford to come out playing like we did this past weekend and have to play from behind.”
The Class 3A Region II championship trophy sitting on top of Degelia’s desk is proof of Krum’s ability to erase those sluggish starts in the regional tournament.
Krum (29-6) overcame 11-point deficits against both Liberty-Eylau and Pittsburg. Senior guard Allison Beck said the topic was something that was discussed after each victory and near-loss.
“We all talked about it after both games,” Beck said. “At halftime, none of us had the fear that it was going to be our last game. We have a lot of heart.
“We know that we can’t start out slow, because that will be hard to come back from, but we also know that we can come back from being behind, because we’ve done that many times.”
As significant as the state tournament appearance is for Krum, it might be bigger for Mexia.
Mexia will be making its first girls basketball state tournament appearance in school history.
Ladycats head coach Randy Barger said a playoff victory last season was the school’s first in almost 24 years.
To commemorate the occasion, Mexia ISD has canceled school for today, giving the team’s fans the opportunity to travel the 141 miles southwest to Austin for the semifinal game. The school day will be made up on an inclement weather day.
Krum students that bring back a ticket stub from Austin’s game will be granted an excused absence.
Barger, who is in his fifth year as a head coach, said his team doesn’t have a lot of height but has plenty of speed. The Ladycats (34-3) avenged its only three regular-season losses this postseason. The District 19-3A runner-up avenged two losses to Fairfield in its Region III final victory. The team’s only other loss was to Waco La Vega, which Mexia beat in the regional quarterfinal.
“We’re a defensive team,” Barger said. “Our team is built around speed because we don’t have a lot of height. For us, we’re going to have to push the tempo of the game on offense by pushing the ball and playing defense.”
Krum practiced in its home gym for the final time this season Wednesday, the final workout for the team’s five seniors.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Krum senior guard Rachel Wallace said. “But to know that it [was] our last practice because we are playing in the state tournament. It feels great to be able to say that.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is email@example.com .