One of the great things about having all the year’s best high school teams in one place for the state tournament is the opportunity to hear the stories that surrounded them.
Typically, the most intriguing stories came from those players and teams that were able to achieve the ultimate goal of the weekend and finding motivation in them.
Here are my awards for some of the best performances of the weekend and the stories that helped make them possible.
Best Team Effort
The most intriguing team effort came from the Canyon Lady Eagles, who won the 4A state title over Austin LBJ, 66-58. Canyon head coach Joe Lombard said LBJ surprised him throughout the game, switching between three different defenses which, at times, stalled the Canyon offense.
Lombard was extremely happy when he learned that halftime of the 4A title game was extended so the UIL could present the 2A state finalist with medals and trophies, giving him extra time and allowing him to create and teach a brand new offense to combat LBJ’s triangle and two defense.
Canyon’s players ran through the new scheme a few times in the locker room and then put it to work on the court in the second half, scoring eight more points than in the first half.
The championship win capped off a 36-0 season, making the 2010-11 Canyon team the third in school history to win a state title without losing a game.
But that’s not all. The win gave Lombard his 1,100th career win, which he realized before the season began could only be achieved if his team did not lose a single game. And if that wasn’t enough, the final win came on his birthday.
Best Individual Effort
This award goes hands-down to Abilene Wylie’s Peyton Little for the Lady Bulldog’s 66-58 win over Lucas Lovejoy in the 3A state title game.
The crafty guard weaved her way through the Lovejoy defense with ease, leading to her tournament high 43-point game, the most scored in a 3A title bout. Little’s record-breaking performance toppled Karen Thompson of Pflugerville’s 42-point record that stood for 32 years.
Little also pitched in four rebounds, four assists and five steals.
Wylie’s win gave the school it’s third girls state championship in as many years. And without a single senior on the roster this season, Wylie has to be the favorite in 2012 to make it four.
The main event of Saturday night, the 5A title game, was a matchup of talented heavyweights in Irving MacArthur’s Alexis Jones and Georgetown’s Krystal Forthan. Forthan, a 6-foot-4 post and LSU commit, is ESPN Hoopgurls' No. 5 recruit in the nation for the class of 2011. Jones is No. 4 on the 2012 list.
The 5-foot-9 Jones showed no fear against her much taller opponent, never hesitating to take it to the hole in the face of Forthan. Her triple-double performance led her team to its 74-51 win and the game MVP award.
Her showcase of skill in both of the Lady Cardinals games in Austin earned her the tournament MVP, asl well. She not only could single-handedly put a team away with pull-up 3’s, but she was also able to find open teammates for a wide-open lay-up or jumper.
She was recognized during the postgame trophy presentation for having the ability to make her entire team play on another level, which garnered the response of nodding heads from every Lady Cardinal player on the court.
The only question remaining for Jones, who is a junior this year, is what feats can she accomplish next year.