Pantherettes head to San Antonio to defend 6A State Championship


Junior Aniya Thomas goes airborne as she celebrates the Pantherettes comeback against SGP to win the Region 1 tournament earning another trip to State. (Brenda Arana photo)

After a scare from district rival South Grand Prairie in the Region 1 Finals ending with an 18-2 run and a 63-49 win, the Pantherettes are headed down to SanAntonio this weekend to defend their 2016 6A State Title, taking with them a 37-2 record.

“I just said to the girls where is that hunger,” head coach Cathy Self-Morgan said. “I told them I know you can do this. You got this.”

The game  against South Grand Prairie remained close with the Pantherettes trailing  13-17 in the first quarter and went into the locker room at the half trailing for the first time all season 28-25.

“We just were not going to be denied another trip to the State Tournament,” Green said. “We fought hard and played hard on defense to get the win.”

The Pantherettes then went on an 18-2 run including a spark for junior Aniya provided the spark hitting two back to back three point shots in the fourth after a dry spell in the first half of the game. This led to last year’s State Tournament MVP Zarielle Green’s adding to her scoring totals finishing with 35 points on the night.

“I told the girls at the half to play better defense,” Self-Morgan said. “It is always our defense that changes our momentum up a notch.”

Senior Nina Alvarez is trapped trying to steal the ball from Keller player during the Region 1 Semi-finals game.(photo by: Ricardo Martin)

Still trailing 37-43 heading into the fourth, the Pantherettes went to a timeout with only 5:20 left on the clock. Coming out of that timeout the team only allowed six points on the defensive side. It was however not just what Self-Morgan told her girls during the break but what SGP did that turned the game around.

“Our intensity picked up when SGP came out of that huddle laughing at us,” Self-Morgan said. “I could see the look in the players eyes at that point.”

Riding an strong finish in that Regional Finals game, the Pantherettes are headed to the State Tournament for the fourth time in five years. This includes claiming three State Titles during that time. This experience isn’t new to the majority of this team. Senior Aakilah Caldwell said this team shares a special bond.

“We all work hard on and off the court and remain humble,” Caldwell said. “We are very coachable and work well together.”

Last year junior Starr Jacobs watched the State Championship  from the bench after sustaining a season ending injury. This year Jacobs has returned to the starting lineup and provided depth to the team. Jacobs averages over 14 points a game as well as pulling down and average of 7 rebounds with over 83 assist.

“After last year I said to myself I was not going to miss playing in another State Championship,” Jacobs said. “This made me come back and work harder to play for this year’s team.”

Competing is something Self-Morgan said the girls on this team does best. She said this is on thing they have to do if they want to secure another title.

“We have to stay with our game, win the boards and loose balls,” Self-Morgan said. “Also we must stay out of foul trouble and remain healthy.”

Self-Morgan will be looking to claim her seventh state title and her fourth for the Pantherettes. She said this team is yet another special team to coach.

“These girls come in every day and work hard. They are Competitive and love each other,” Self-Morgan said. “We love each other and we need each other and we can not do this without each other. These girls buy into that and we get it done every day. We need to do it two more times.”

NOTE: There will be a sendoff Thursday at 8:45 in front of Sandra Meadows Arena for the Panterettes as they board their busses. Follow us on twitter and instagram for latest updates on the Pantherettes run through State.

Senior Nina Alvarez looks for a foul call after losing a loose ball to Keller in the Regional Semi-finals game. (Jose Sanchez photo)