WACO, Texas - Behind a game-high 21-point performance by senior guard Taylor Ross and 15 points from senior forward Jonelle Smith and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch, nationally-ranked Pflugerville punched its ticket to the UIL State Tournament Final Four as it defeated Spring Dekaney, 68-59, in the Region II Championship Game Saturday night. The game was played at Baylor's Ferrell Center.
With the victory, Pflugerville moves to 37-0 and advances to the UIL State Tournament at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin next weekend. Pflugerville qualifies for the Final Four for the seventh time in program history and for the third time since 2005. Under current head coach Nancy Walling, the Panthers have made four of those appearances (1993, 2005, 2009, 2013).
The pairings for the 5A State semifinals will be announced on Sunday morning. Pflugerville is joined by Duncanville (40-0), League City Clear Springs (38-2) and Cibolo Steele (32-5) in the 5A State Tournament. The 5A semifinal games take place on Friday, March 1 (3 p.m and 8:30 p.m.) and the championship game is at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Against Dekaney, the Panthers scored their final nine points on free throws in the last three minutes of play. Ross netted six of those free throws.
After Dekaney tied the game at 55-all on a Brianna Taylor layup with 4:17 to play, Ross was fouled on P'ville's next possession. She stepped to the free throw line in a one-and-one situation with 4:12 to go to break the tie and give P'ville a 57-55 edge. A Dekaney layup tied the game again before senior forward Diana Omozee gave the Panthers the lead for good, 59-57, on a driving layup with 3:40 remaining.
Pflugerville then forced a Lady Wildcat turnover and Ross was fouled on a drive to the basket. The senior sank both free throws for a 61-57 lead with 3:28 to play. Neither team scored over the next 1:50 and the Panthers put the game away by making seven free throws down the stretch. Two free throws by junior guard Stephanie Onyeje gave P'ville a 63-57 lead with 1:38 to go and after a Dekaney layup cut the lead to six (63-57) with 1:10 left, Ross extended the Panther lead to seven by making three of four free throws over the next 22 seconds to push the lead to 66-59 with 48 seconds remaining.
The Panthers had taken a 50-44 lead into the final quarter before Dekaney went on an 11-5 run and tied the game at 55-55.
Dekaney had three players foul out in the game trying to combat the quickness of Pflugerville. P'ville went to the free throw line 44 times, making 28 foul shots while Dekaney was two-for-eight from the foul line.
Pflugerville also held a 28-24 advantage in rebounding and had the edge in steals, 16-9.