Duncanville uses stifling defense to reach final

AUSTIN, Texas -- Duncanville punched its ticket to the 5A state final thanks to stifling defense.

The individual scoring stats meant little compared to the 23 turnovers the Duncanville girls' defense forced against Houston Cypress Falls in a 64-40 semifinal rout Friday in the state semifinals.

Duncanville (39-1) took control in the final 6:37 of the second quarter, going on a 21-2 run to take a 35-11 lead into the locker room against Cypress Falls (37-3).

“Defense comes first and that’s what we focus on the most,” Pantherettes guard Empress Davenport said. “We play defense and the offense falls in place. That’s what we rely on.”

Duncanville’s full-court, man defense pestered Cypress Falls all night, resulting in 13 steals and a shooting percentage against that just barely hit 30 percent.

Davenport, Duncanville's top scorer, was surprisingly quiet, but she contributed a team-high six assists. It was the secondary scorers who stepped up and put on shooting clinic. Forward Ariel Atkins and guard Morgan Bolton scored a team-high 15 points apiece, with both scoring six points in the first quarter.

Duncanville’s focus can be attributed to taking in the atmosphere of the Erwin Center Thursday night and a season full of team yoga sessions, coach Cathy Self-Morgan said.

“The boys coach was doing it and so I thought we should try it and the girls thought it was hard, so I said, ‘Lets do it,’” Self-Morgan said with a laugh. “They didn’t’ like it, so I thought lets keep doing it.”

Extra focus might have also been behind the rebounding surge Duncanville received from junior forward Kiara Perry, who finished with seven boards, including five in the first quarter.

“This girl is only 5-10 and had to go against 6-footers to get those boards,” Self Morgan said.

The blowout was somewhat of a surprise. Duncanville beat Cypress Falls earlier in the year, but by a much smaller margin, 58-47.

Regardless, Duncanville advances to the 5A state championship in its 21st appearance in the state tournament to face Spring Dekaney, a 50-35 winner over San Antonio Reagan. The title bout tips Saturday at 8:30 p.m. -- a date that has been circled in Duncanville’s calendar the entire season.

“We all feel that we want it and nobody can take it from us,” Bolton said. “We’re going to fight until the end.”