Playing like a seasoned veteran, sophomore post Justis Szczepanski-Beavers led the Aledo Bearcats to an impressive 55-37 win over rival Granbury to advance to the Class 4A regional semifinals.
“Coach has been telling us all week to show no mercy no matter who we are playing,” Szczepanski-Beavers said. “Coach told me that if I passed the ball out of the paint, I would have to come out of the game. I just did what he told me to do.”
Aledo (28-7) came out overly aggressive in the first quarter, committing five turnovers and six fouls, but found its stride in the second quarter, taking a slim 20-17 lead into the half.
Szczepanski-Beavers, who finished with a game-high 25 points, battled early with Granbury’s Lilley Vander Zee, who was still nursing a broken finger on her shooting hand. Despite having a strong first half, Vander Zee, a University of Texas signee, was forced to leave the game early in the third quarter due to a knee injury.
With Vander Zee on the bench, the Bearcats went on a 17-5 run to extend their lead to 37-22 heading into the fourth quarter.
With scouts from USC and Texas looking on, Szczepanski-Beavers took control of the game late, scoring 11 fourth-quarter points and finishing with eight blocks and nine rebounds.
“Her upside is huge,” Aledo coach Rusty Johnson said. “She’s too good to not score when the ball is in her hands.”
Senior Ashley Bonugli did her best to keep Granbury (22-14) in the game, scoring six points in the final three minutes of play.
With the loss, Granbury exits the playoffs one round earlier than last year.
“This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end for us,” a teary-eyed Vander Zee said. “We just didn’t finish the job.”
Aledo next plays Friday against the winner of the matchup between Amarillo Palo Duro and Canyon.