Saltillo wasn’t going to be denied again.
Victoria Stretcher finished with 21 points and Karli Brewer added 11 to lead the No. 1 Lady Lions past seventh-ranked Coolidge, 54-42, in the Class 1A Division II Region III final Saturday night at Tyler Junior College’s Wagstaff Gymnasium.
The duo helped Saltillo take its first lead in the third quarter and then dominate the rest of the way, earning a berth in next weekend’s UIL state basketball tournament at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center in Austin.
The victory came in the Lady Lions’ third consecutive appearance in the regional final, with the previous two trips resulting in losses to eventual state champion Neches. Saltillo entered the playoffs atop the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches poll each season, but the Lady Lions can finally call themselves regional champions.
“These seniors have put so much into it after we got beat last year,” Saltillo coach Garry Davison said. “They were not going to be denied this year. I’m so proud of them.”
Stretcher used her post presence to generate strong underneath baskets while Brewer scored all 11 of hers within a short span in the third and fourth quarters to help turn a seven-point deficit into a 39-35 lead with 6:50 remaining in the game.
Saltillo taking over the game coincided with Coolidge sophomore guard Dianne Kirven sitting in foul trouble, having picked up her fourth foul in third quarter. Kirven helped the Lady Jackets lead by double figures prior to then, finishing the night with a team-high 15 points.
“When we got down nine or 10 points, we kept believing and we kept fighting,” Davison said. “We never lost confidence.”
In the first half, Coolidge built a 17-5 lead with 6:50 left in the second quarter and appeared to be on the way to a rout victory. But the Lady Jackets fell victim to a big run by Saltillo, which scored an 11-1 run to pull within 18-16 with just more than a minute left before the break.
Coolidge led 22-18 at halftime, thanks in large part to an 11-point scoring effort by Jacobs. Stretcher paced Saltillo with nine points in the first half.
Class 1A Division II Region III Final
At Wagstaff Gymnasium, Tyler Junior College
No. 1 Saltillo 54, No. 7 Coolidge
Coolidge 12 6 11 9 — 42
Saltillo 5 13 16 10 — 54
COOLIDGE — Adrianna Jones, 7; Essence Kirven, 4; Brianna Kirven, 8; Kelbi Shirley, 2; Nayeli Gonzalez, 2; Teryn Johnson, 3; Precious Busby, 1; Dianna Kirven, 15.
SALTILLO — Andrea Tippitt, 8; Ariel Tippit, 2; Kendall Bain, 2; Victoria Stretcher, 21; Chelsea Moore, 8; Karli Brewer, 11; Haylee Clover, 2.
THREE POINT GOALS — C: D. Kirven. S: none.
RECORDS — Coolidge 24-3; Saltillo 31-6.
NEXT UP — Saltillo vs. TBA, state semifinals.