FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Duncanville girls basketball team will be making a return to the state tournament final four for the first time in eight years.
Two hallmarks of the tradition-rich program, depth and defense, are responsible for getting the Pantherettes back to Austin.
Duncanville defeated defending Class 5A state champion Irving MacArthur and its sensational senior guard Alexis Jones in overtime, 62-55, in the Class 5A Region I title game Saturday afternoon at Wilkerson-Grienes Activity Center.
Jones, a Duke signee rated the No. 3 senior in the nation by ESPNU Hoop Gurlz, scored 31 points but was limited to two field goals (on eight shots) in the fourth quarter and overtime.
If ever a team’s defense can be commended for allowing a player 31 points, this was the game.
“Of course she got her points," said Empress Davenport, who had much of the responsibility of guarding Jones, “but we didn’t want her to get 44 like she did on Friday. Our plan was to play her to her left [Jones is left-handed] and stay between her and the basket.‘’
If Jones got past one defender, another in a blue Duncanville jersey was usually waiting to pounce. The 5-9 senior was 9-of-29 from the field (including 4-of-11 on 3-pointers) and 9-of-12 from the free-throw line. She had 13 rebounds.
“I really thought we would take control when it went to overtime,’’ Jones said. “It was very physical. There was a lot of contact, but some of that goes with being who I am.’’
Duncanville (38-1) got a big lift from Antiona Robinson off the bench with eight points on 4-of-4 shooting. Consecutive baskets by the 6-1 junior post put the Pantherettes in front for good, 56-55, with 1:10 remaining in overtime.
“Whenever I get my chance, I try to play my heart out,’’ Robinson said.
Jones scored the first four points in overtime for a 55-51 lead, but MacArthur (35-3) went scoreless in the final three minutes.
Duncanville guard Morgan Bolton extended the lead to three with a driving bank shot with 30 seconds to go after Jones was called for traveling.
Davenport was fouled and sank to free throws after rebounding a Jones miss with 12 seconds remaining to clinch the victory.
“I really didn’t think we came to play today like we are capable,’’ Jones said. “We didn’t seem to start to play until the end of the game.
“It is hard for a team to win back-to-back state titles.’’
Sophomore guard Ariel Atkins led Duncanville with 15 points. Davenport, battling her way out of a shooting slump, and Kiara Perry each had 12 points.
“I felt like this was the state championship game,’’ Duncanville coach Cathy Self-Morgan said. “That was a great basketball game. Alexis Jones is one of the greatest players we’ve come up against. We’re extremely excited to be going to state. The girls worked hard for it.’’
Davenport agreed: “Getting up every day and running lines, nobody deserved to win today more than we did. We have what it takes to win it all.’’