AUSTIN — Throughout the fourth quarter Thursday afternoon, fans in a sea of blue in the corner of the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center anxiously sat to see if Krum could muster its third comeback in as many games in the Class 3A state basketball semifinals.
Krum overcame two double-digit deficits in the regional tournament to make the program’s second state tournament appearance.
That third comeback never came.
Mexia ended Krum’s hopes of bringing home the school’s first girls basketball state title with a 50-41 victory.
Krum (29-7) broke a drought of 31 years since its initial state championship appearance, then in the Class A semifinals. The Lady Cats moved up to 3A for the first time in school history this season. But as Krum head coach Lana Degelia sat at the interview table following the game, there was little solace in making appearances.
“It’s a great disappointment,” Degelia said. “I know how hard the girls worked to get where they’re at. This is not where we wanted to be, but when you have 28 turnovers, it’s hard to win ballgames.”
Mexia (35-3) advanced to face Kennedale, which Krum defeated earlier this season, in Saturday’s Class 3A state championship game.
Those 28 turnovers proved to be too much for Krum to overcome against a Mexia team that used its speed to offset its lack of height.
The Ladycats, champions of Region III, ran out to a 26-24 lead with 6:25 left in the third quarter and never looked back.
Mexia head coach Randy Barger said he contemplated switching out of his man-to-man press and go into a zone defense, but he couldn’t neglect the press’ success.
“Our mentality is that we want to play with as much pressure,” Barger said. “We don’t want them to rest. We don’t want them to have an easy time down the floor. That’s just the nature of the basketball we play.”
Krum seniors Julia Schmaltz and Rachel Wallace were the only players to see no rest on either team. Both played the entire game and led Krum’s offense. Wallace finished with a team-high 15 points but struggled from long range, going 1 of 6 from behind the 3-point line. Schmaltz carried Krum early and finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Mexia guard Brechelle Beachum had a game-high 16 points and six steals, and guard Na’Teshia Owens had 14 points.
After finishing the first quarter with a three-point lead, Mexia struggled to find points early in the second quarter. Mexia finally broke its scoring drought more than halfway through the quarter.
But by that point, Krum had erased the deficit and taken a 24-22 halftime lead.
Mexia opened the third quarter with four straight points that gave the Ladycats the lead for good. Mexia opened up a six-point lead and threatened to make it larger.
With time ticking down in the third quarter, Wallace knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to three heading into the game’s final eight minutes.
Any momentum from Wallace’s shot was quickly wiped out by four turnovers on Krum’s first five possessions of the fourth quarter.
“Last weekend, against both of those teams [Texarkana Liberty-Eylau and Pittsburg], they didn’t capitalize on our turnovers, but tonight they did and it kind of brought us down,” Wallace said. “But we still had some of that intensity that brought us back to keep fighting in the fourth quarter.”
Against Liberty-Eylau and Pittsburg in the 3A Region II tournament, Krum turned waves of momentum into an overwhelming surge that engulfed its opponents in the fourth quarter.
But Krum could never get closer than five points in the final quarter.
“There were times when we lost a little bit of composure,” Degelia said. “We didn’t stop playing hard. We didn’t give up. We just didn’t play with the composure that we knew how to play with.”
Degelia sent seven players out onto the court Thursday afternoon, six of whom played their final game at Krum and whom Degelia said will be missed.
Almost immediately after the game, the team lined up and was awarded their consolation medals for reaching the state tournament. The team then looked up into the sea of blue that washed out the corner of the arena and the sea roared back, applauding only the second group of girls to reach the state’s biggest stage.
“It is a great achievement to come back after 31 years, but it was our goal to win that last game,” Schmaltz said. “So, you know, Mexia played hard. So did we, but they came out on top [today].”
“They deserve it, but there’s always a part of me that thinks it should have been us.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
MEXIA 50, KRUM 41
Krum (29-7) —Julia Schmaltz 6-10 2-2 14, Rachel Wallace 6-15 2-2 15, Caylee Thomas 3-5 1-4 7, Diamond Martinez 1-8 3-4 5. Totals 16-41 8-12 41.
Mexia (35-3) — Brechelle Beachum 6-13 3-3 16, Na’Teshia Owens 7-11 0-3 14, Ariel Ballard 5-7 0-0 10, Gee Greer 2-10 1-1 6, Breana Stoner 1-3 0-0 3, Ashley Johnson 0-9 1-2 1. Totals 21-55 5-9 50.
3-point goals — Krum 1-9 (Wallace 1-6). Mexia 3-18 (Beachum 1-6, Greer 1-9, Stoner 1-2). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Krum 35 (Schmaltz 11); Mexia 27 (Beachum 5, Johnson 5, Owens 5). Assists — Krum 8 (Allison Beck 2, Wallace 2, Martinez 2); Mexia 6 (Beachum 2, Greer 2). Steals — Krum 8 (Beck 4); Mexia 17 (Beachum 6). Blocked shots — Krum 2 (Schmaltz 2); Mexia 1 (Beachum 1). Total fouls — Krum 14, Mexia 16. Technical fouls – none.