Hardin-Jefferson (35-4) came into Friday's UIL 4A state semifinal matchup as the heavy favorite against Burnet (31-8), and it showed down the stretch. Ultimately, the Hawks hung on for a 49-44 victory at San Antonio's Alamodome.
VYPE Player of the Game Ashlon Jackson was the difference, with her team-high 13 points and 11 rebounds.
"We just knew that we had to hoop in order to win," said Jackson. "We started off shaky at first, but we got the dub. It wasn't pretty, but we won."
Burnet fired on all cylinders early, so it took an early 10-3 lead. Emma Lewis, who finished with a game-high 17 points, made an early three like Hattie Blair, Kendal Connolly made a shot inside the arc, and Paris Brinkley added a pair of free throws. But, Hardin Jefferson had an answer, and scored the final five points of the period.
Burnet went through a 6 minute and 23 second scoring drought, so it didn't score another point until Caitlynne Graves' three at the 6:13 mark of the second quarter.
Hardin-Jefferson's stout defense was just the start of what was to come. Delberta Guillory-Smith, Asia Wheeler and Ashlon Jackson heated up the Hawks' offense with five first half points.
The scoreboard showed a two-point Burnet advantage at the end of the first and second quarters, but Hardin-Jefferson changed the game's trend in the second half. The Hawks took their first lead of the game at the 6:55 mark of the third, and led by as much as seven in the third quarter. Guillory-Smith and Jackson both scored four points in the period, as they helped their team outscore Burnet 16-10.
The fourth quarter would conclude the season for one of the teams, so, of course, the game came down to the wire. Burnet had a late possession to possibly tie it with a three, but Hardin-Jefferson's steal set up Jackson's game-deciding basket.
Hardin-Jefferson will play the Argyle/Dallas Lincoln winner in Saturday's UIL 4A state title game, which has a scheduled 7 p.m. tip.
"A big refocus," Jackson said after Friday's win. "I think a lot of us were nervous, but, once again, we just got to get the first game out of the way, and then we're good. Same plan tomorrow, different day."
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