3A Lovejoy girls punch ticket to state final

AUSTIN -- A physical game played right into the hands of the Lucas Lovejoy girls, helping them knock out Fairfield in the 3A basketball state semifinals, 62-44.

The officials in the state tournament matchup at Frank Erwin Center allowed the girls to play, giving Lovejoy an advantage, head coach Kelly Connor said.

“We play such a high intense defense that every now and then we’re running into them, we’re bumping them and slapping them,” Connor said. “So if the calls are a little bit loose then it’s usually in our favor.”

Lovejoy ran a tough full-court press and a half-court trap that all but shut down the Farifield offense and forced 32 turnovers. Those turnovers resulted in 31 points for the Leopards.

“They trapped early and we knew it was going to get on us quick,” Fairfield head coach Stephen Heers said. “Early, we didn’t line up in a good enough press break and we just didn’t get it done. That was pretty disappointing and we kind of let the game right there get away from us."

Senior guard Millie Rivera thought the defense set the tone for Lovejoy.

“If we start off strong on defense and start of pressing, we get into it," she said. "I think it definitely starts the momentum and how we play.”

Lovejoy’s defense helped keep the lead through the entire game, but an offensive surge in the third quarter would eventually give the Leopards the win.

Rivera scored a game-high 19 points, including five in the Leopard’s third quarter run.

Lovejoy advances to the 3A state final to face Abilene Wylie, a team the Leopards lost to, 67-53, in the Whataburger Classic early in the season. The final at the Erwin Center takes place Saturday at 10 a.m.