The Fairfield Lady Eagles brought the fight all season long, sensing unfinished business for the veteran crew in the postseason.
From their trapping defense, to diving for every loose ball, Sally Whitaker's unit never quit through the Regional and State brackets.
The never-say-die attitude showed itself again in the 4A State Championship contest against Argyle, winning the program's first state title in a 40-39 overtime thriller.
Clawing back from a 14-point halftime deficit against the five-time defending 4A champions, the Lady Eagles held possession, down just one point with 37.2 seconds remaining in regulation. After a Jarahle Daniels jumper bounced off the rim, Argyle regained possession, getting the ball to senior leader Rhyle McKinney. McKinney, who had 20 already in an electric offensive performance, was fouled by Kayelee Adams with 11.3 on the clock.
After calmly draining her first freebie, Whitaker called a Fairfield timeout. The time between shots rattled McKinney enough to see her second foul shot go off the right side of the rim, into the hands of freshman McKinna Brackens.
Down two, the Lady Eagles had one now-or-never shot to extend the game to overtime. Brackens obliged, driving down the right side and getting a shot off the glass, swishing home as regulation expired at a 34-34 tie.
Brackens, named Championship Game MVP, was massive on both ends all night long. Taking the challenge of slowing down McKinney down the stretch, the freshman provided excellent defense on top of 15 points (7-11 shooting) and 10 rebounds.
Argyle was ready for the extra session, scoring the first three points on a Bailey Timmons free throw and another McKinney jumper, one of the 2019 Championship Game MVP's nine field goals. With the Lady Eagles desperate for offense, Daniels hit her only shot of the night, a big three from the right wing to tie the game up at 37.
The champs from 2015-19 took possession with 2:20 to go, and went back to their pet strategy, keeping the ball at bay from the Lady Eagles with the dribbling of McKinney and Brooklyn Carl. After holding the ball for nearly two minutes, time was called by Argyle with 39 seconds left. Argyle called another timeout ten seconds later.
Unflappable all game, McKinney was finally caught by Fairfield's trap tactics, with Brackens stripping the senior at the 15-second mark of overtime. Brackens' subsequent drive led to a loose ball fracas under the Lady Eagles' rim, with a jump ball call leading to another Argyle inbound opportunity.
Argyle attempted to find McKinney once again, but Jada Clark was ready this time. The Lady Eagles' senior guard stripped McKinney at the top of Fairfield's key, then rushed the rim. Clark landed enough of a soft touch over the fouling Argyle defense, as the ball swished through for an and-one opportunity.
After a Whitaker timeout, Clark drained the free throw, putting Fairfield up 40-37 with six seconds on the clock. Clark's and-one was the first lead taken by the Lady Eagles all night long.
Not going quietly, McKinney took the ball coast to coast on the ensuing inbound, attempting to bait the Lady Eagles into a foul call on a three-point shot at the top of the Argyle key. On the fling, the officials called foul number five on Clark, sending her to the bench to see out the remaining seconds.
McKinney, with the intense Fairfield faithful watching on, stepped to the line for three free throws. Make all three, double overtime is almost a certainty. Miss one, and Fairfield claims the program's first 4A State Title.
Shot one, swish.
Shot two, swish.
Shot three, clang.
McKinney's shot was short, and the senior's wild put-back opportunity was off as well.
Zeroes on the clock. 40-39. A mixture of sweat, tears and pride on the Alamodome floor.
A tale of two halves was shown in the box score, with the Lady Eagles stepping up on both sides in a second half comeback for the ages.
In the first half, the team shot just 3-13 from the field, opposed to a 9-19 mark (5-7 from three) for Argyle. Fairfield was outscored in the paint (7-4), off turnovers (10 points off mistakes for Argyle, none for the Lady Eagles), and off the fast break (3-0).
Down 25-11 at half, with McKinney (14 first half points) outscoring the entire Fairfield unit, the Lady Eagles stepped up the defensive intensity first and foremost. Argyle made just five field goals in the second half and overtime, and didn't make a single three-point shot, as the Lady Eagles allowed just four Argyle attempts from outside down the stretch.
Fairfield owned the second half and extra session in the paint (20-6 advantage), in second chance points (8-0), and off the bench (16-2). Brackens scored 13 of the squad's 16 bench points in the second half and overtime.
Whitaker made swift personnel changes throughout, including key second half minutes for Adams, part of a three-guard lineup with Clark and Daniels that stifled Argyle's outside game.
Senior Captain Braden Bossier was a calming source of scoring, as well as potent rim anchor, in her Lady Eagles finale. Bossier finished with 10 points and four rebounds in the contest.
Other leading scorers were Clark (six points), Daniels (three) and sophomore Bryunna Dowell (two). Dowell continued her relentless attack on the offensive glass, following eight offensive boards in the State Semifinal against Dallas Lincoln with four more in the final.
After the contest, FISD Superintendent Dr. Jason Adams and FHS Principal Sonya Gibson were on hand to distribute medals to the team, as part of their Championship presentation ceremony.
The Recorder will have more on Fairfield's momentous State Championship victory in the coming days.