Lady Dawgs' journey ends at State

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Wayne Craig/Clear Memories
Trynadee Greenwell and Kendal Connolly, right, block out one of the Hawks' high-flying rebounders while Hattie Blair takes care of the shooter with a block and rebound of her own during the state semifinal Friday, March 1, at the Alamodome. The Lady Dawgs fell in a heartbreaker, 49-44.





By Wayne Craig

Bulletin Sports

The 2018-19 Lady Bulldog basketball season will be talked about for years to come in Burnet and will always be remembered in the pages of Lady Dawg history books. The Lady Dawgs, with one of the smaller enrollments at 875, faced numerous talented and larger schools on their season long journey to state. Who can forget an early season tournament win over Glen Rose, a highly ranked team at the time, or a nice win over El Campo, a talented team with an impressive record, in the Regional Quarterfinal game.

At the Regional tournament Burnet faced more stiff competition in round one as they stepped to the court with Beeville Jones, a 31-8 team, with an enrollment of 1,040 and a tall post that had most fans looking twice. The Lady Dawgs didn’t back down from the challenge and earned the victory as well as the right to face Liberty Hill for a third time. That game did turn out to be the charm, Lady Dawgs 52-Liberty Hill 36, breaking a long string of 13 purple victories over the green and white.

And so the stage was set. Burnet rolled out of town on Thursday with streets lined on both sides as fans decked out in their Bulldog gear cheered them on.

They took to the court at the Alamodome mid-day Friday to face their biggest challenge yet in the State Semi-finals. The task at hand was the Hardin-Jefferson Lady Hawks. A Class 4A, District 22, Region III team decked out in blue and red. The Lady Hawks were making their seventh appearance at state and they too had several tall players that quickly drew attendees attentions.

More than 4,000 fans filled the stands, Burnet had about double what was there to cheer on the Hawks and with the tip ball it was on.

Emma Lewis brought an already loud crowd to a whole new decibel when she calmly drained a three to open the game’s scoring. Jefferson returned the favor making it 3-3, which turned out to be the only time the game would be knotted up.

A sweet Kendall Connolly rebound and put back broke the tie on the next possession and Burnet took back their lead, 5-3; a lead they would hold all the way through the second quarter.

Paris Brinkley soon added to the lead with a pair of charity points, and Hattie Blair sent Burnet’s fans over the edge with a three-point shot that put Burnet up 10-3, with 4:13 remaining in the first quarter.

The Lady Dawgs didn’t produce any points in the final four minutes of the period, and the Lady Hawks closed the gap to 10-8 with five unanswered before the buzzer.

Solid defense was on display in the early minutes of the second quarter, and none stood out as much as Burnet’s Kendall Connolly. Connolly had a tough job on her hands, scraping it out under the basket against much taller players and she still managed a way to pull in rebounds and dish out assists. The first points of the period were chalked up at the 6:00 minute mark as Caitlynne Graves drained a triple putting Burnet up 13-8, followed by Brinkley at the line with two-more free throws, 15-8.

In the next minutes of the game the Lady Dawgs only improved their score by two Blair free-throws, while the Jefferson girls hit a triple, a double, and two foul shots closing the gap to 17-15.

It appeared the game would be tied again as a big Lady Hawk post came charging in for a bucket, but Connolly planted her feet and stood her ground, erasing the two points with a charge.

Gracyn Bennett put two more on the board before the halftime buzzer sounded and the second ended with some great defense under the basket by Blair that kept Burnet on top, 19-17.

The Lady Hawks had the opening score of the third and took their first lead of the night, 22-19, with 6:47 left in the period.

Brinkley cashed in on one of two free throws, 22-20, and Connolly was called on again to stand her ground, taking her second charge of the game and erasing two more Lady Hawk points.

A Lewis three-pointer put Burnet back on top, 23-22 at the 5:19 mark, but that lead was short lived as the Lady Hawks went on a little run moving the score to 27-23.

Before the third ended, Lewis hit another three, and Blair added one of her own from outside the arc, but Burnet never found their way back to the top and went into the fourth trailing, 33-29.

A Brinkley bucket closed it to two right off the bat in the fourth, 33-31, but again Hardin-Jefferson found a way to widen the gap and with just over six minutes remaining they were up, 38-31.

That’s when Lewis once again sent a three pointer threw the net making it a four-point game, 38-34.

Two unanswered baskets by the Lady Hawks brought the score to 42-34, but a Brinkley free throw and Lewis triple got Burnet back in the game, 42-38.

A sweet Lewis backdoor assist to Trynadee Greenwell resulted in a much need bucket putting the Lady Dawgs in striking distance, 42-40 with 2:32 to play.

Jefferson, two-pointer, 44-40, Blair answer, 44-42.

At the 1:32 mark Brinkley was forced to foul, her fifth; Jefferson made both shots, 46-42.

Lewis hit a double with under a minute to play, 46-44, and the Lady Hawks made the front end of two-foul shots right after, 47-44.

After another trip to the line that produced no points for Jefferson, the Lady Dawgs had their chance. An inbounds pass was eventually wrestled away from Burnet as they attempted to set up the three, and Jefferson made the game’s last points as the buzzer sounded, 49-44.

There was only one tie in the game, and just three lead changes.

At one point in the first the Lady Dawgs held a seven point lead, and at one point in the fourth Hardin-Jefferson held an eight point lead.

Overall Burnet led for 15:59, and Jefferson, 14:51. The game was tied for 1:10.

It was a great ballgame to watch.

Burnet cashed in on 10 buckets from the paint, two second chance buckets, two fast break buckets, and five buckets from bench players.

Emma Lewis shot 50 percent overall hitting six doubles, and five three pointers. She led the gym with 17 points. Hattie Blair was next on the offensive charts with 10 points. That include two threes and two for two at the line. Paris Brinkley finished with eight points. She was six of eight at the stripe. Caitlyn Graves scored three, Gracyn Bennett, two; Trynadee Greenwell, two; and Kendall Connolly, two.

Connolly was number one on the rebounding charts for Burnet with seven; three offensive, four defensive.

“A season like this is huge for our program. Girls at the middle school level and even younger high school girls can see what we are capable of, and that if you work hard, are committed, and focused you can go all the way to the Alamodome,” said coach Rick Gates.

“It was so cool to be here, said senior Paris Brinkley during the after game press conference. This whole season we focused on wanting to go this far, and it’s so awesome. Even though we lost, just to be able to say we went to the Alamodome together, making memories. I’m so thankful for the opportunity we had.”

“It’s crazy, said senior Emma Lewis just being at the state game. All week we were embracing the moment, but also staying focused while getting ready to play the game. It was good to learn all the steps along the way, especially for the younger girls. It means the world. It’s what every player dreams of doing, and we finally did it, against all odds.”

The Lady Dawgs finished the 2018-19 season with an overall record 31-8, the best in Lady Dawg history.

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