AUSTIN — For one of the few times this season for either team, Argyle and Waco La Vega found themselves in a competitive contest in the fourth quarter.
And for one of the even fewer times this season, Argyle coach Skip Townsend looked up at a scoreboard that said his team was losing. The scoreboard said the same thing when the final buzzer sounded over La Vega cheers.
In a battle of the state’s top-ranked Class 3A teams, La Vega defeated the Lady Eagles 47-42 on Saturday in the state championship game at Texas’ Frank Erwin Center.
The Lady Pirates became the 19th girls basketball team in University Interscholastic League history to go undefeated and kept Argyle (36-2) from winning its second state championship and first in 3A.
La Vega was the only 3A team to defeat the Lady Eagles, who saw their 24-game winning streak come to an end. Argyle’s one-point halftime lead quickly vanished, and the Lady Pirates (35-0) never gave it back.
“If we could have gotten the lead, we might have won the game,” Townsend said. “But you don’t give that team the lead. They know how to win, obviously. They’re undefeated. When they got the lead on us, we had to do some things we don’t like to do, and they took advantage of it.”
La Vega sophomore guard Calveion Landrum led all scorers with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting and was named the game’s most valuable player.
The Lady Eagles were led by 14 points apiece from junior Delaney Sain and freshman Vivian Gray.
Neither team shot the ball well, but La Vega was able to find its stroke in the second half. The Lady Pirates shot 42.1 percent from the field in the second half, while Argyle shot only 32 percent in the final two quarters.
La Vega junior center Erin DeGrate disrupted things in the paint with her 6-foot, 4-inch frame. DeGrate only shot 6-of-17 from the floor but finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
After La Vega guard Yasmine Evans opened the third with two free throws, the Lady Eagles never led again.
Argyle stayed within striking distance of a team that had only three wins by 10 points or less this season. Junior guard Jesse Sheridan knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:13 left to cut the Lady Pirates’ lead to two points.
But La Vega answered and the Lady Eagles couldn’t capitalize on good opportunities down the stretch.
“How many layups can you miss right under the goal?” Townsend said. “We missed five, six in the last two minutes that we should have made. You can’t do that and win a state championship.”
La Vega’s win validated the team’s lofty ranking in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches poll. The Lady Pirates finished the regular season ranked first in 3A, while Argyle finished second.
La Vega coach Amy Gillum said her team thought about the rankings, but at the end of the day, the contest was decided by two great teams. Gillum also said nerves and the quality of the competition had something to do with the teams’ shooting struggles.
“All that played a factor,” Gillum said. “They just weren’t falling.”
Landrum played the biggest factor in the contest. The sophomore, ranked 15th in the class of 2016 by ESPN Hoopgurlz, drained three 3-pointers in the second quarter to help the Lady Pirates come back from a 12-6 deficit after the first quarter. Landrum also helped the La Vega erase Argyle’s 25-24 halftime lead.
“We said going into the game that we needed to double-team her, and we couldn’t even double-team her,” Townsend said. “She’s phenomenal. The game plan for her, I don’t think we did a very good job.”
Townsend kept his starters in for almost the entire contest. He was forced to put in senior Bailey Eschle with 29.3 seconds left when Gray fouled out. But by then, the outcome was decided.
Eschle made the most of her time on the court and salvaged a bucket in her final game with the Lady Eagles. The team’s lone senior was Townsend’s selection to speak to the media after the game, and she said the team was upset after receiving its second-place medals.
Eschle said it was heartbreaking to go so far and be so close to the state title, but she was in good spirits as she spoke into a bunch of television cameras.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” Eschle said. “We’re all so close and we worked so hard together.”
Eschle will be gone next season, but Argyle is expected to return everybody else on a team that started two freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors Saturday morning. Townsend said repeating as District 10-3A champion will be the team’s main goal and the team will adjust accordingly.
Sain, the team’s leading scorer this season, said the Lady Eagles will strive to return to Austin.
“I’m so proud of my team this year because we’ve come such a long way,” Sain said. “Having the freshmen playing middle school games last year now playing in the state game, they all did great this whole year and they’ve all matured really well, and I think our team will be even better next year.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
Waco La Vega 47, Argyle 42
Waco La Vega
WACO LA VEGA (35-0) – Dimereson 3-4 2-3 8, DeGrate 6-17 0-0 12, Evans 0-6 2-2 2, Landrum 8-13 4-4 23, Gill 0-2 2-2 2, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Sanders 0-2 0-0 0.
ARGYLE (36-2) – Ralston 0-0 0-0 0, O. Gray 2-3 0-0 5, V. Gray 7-16, 0-0, 14, Sain 7-18, 0-0 14, Sheridan 2-12 2-2 7, Eschle 1-1 0-0 2.
Halftime – Argyle 25-24. Three-point goals – La Vega 3-5 (Landrum 3-3, Gill 0-2), Argyle 2-5 (O. Gray 1-1, Sheridan 1-4). Fouled out – V. Gray. Rebounds – La Vega 47 (DeGrate 12), Argyle 42 (V. Gray 9). Assists – La Vega 5 (Two tied, 2), FAU 9 (Sheridan 5). Total fouls – La Vega 12, Argyle 10. A — 5,128 MVP — Calveion Landrum, Waco La Vega