Kennedale cruised past Smithville 87-66 Thursday afternoon in the Class 3A girls state semifinals to reach the school’s first state basketball final since the boys won the 3A title in 2008.
Kennedale (31-6) will play Mexia (35-3) in Saturday’s 10 a.m. final at the Erwin Center.
“It’s amazing. I just want to go out with a bang,” Kennedale senior forward Autumn Williams said.
The Wildcats turned up the defensive pressure early, and Smithville struggled against Kennedale’s full court press from start to finish. Kennedale forced 31 turnovers and had 22 steals. The Wildcats scored 30 points off turnovers and had 41 fast-break points.
“We push the ball a lot, that’s our thing,” said Kennedale junior McKinley Bostad, who scored 20 points. “We push it, and pressure on defense. That’s just our style of play.”
Kennedale controlled the game from the opening tip and led by as many as 29.
Seniors Travanti Downes and Williams scored 10 points apiece in the first quarter to give Kennedale an early 30-10 edge. The Wildcats scored the first eight points of the second quarter to build a commanding 28-point lead.
“We weren’t expecting to be up that much,” said Kennedale coach Vance Hughes. “But we knew we were going to put some pressure to try to get an early start and get some cushion.”
That’s exactly what the Wildcats did in the first half. Kennedale forced 15 turnovers and had 10 steals to enter the break with a 46-29 advantage.
“We knew that would be our demise if we turned the ball over,” Smithville coach Robin Rasmay said. “We just didn’t hang on to it.”
Smithville (29-8) trimmed the deficit to 14 points in the third quarter, but Kennedale responded with a 22-9 run to close the quarter with a 73-46 lead.
Williams finished with 22 points, six rebounds and six assists. Downes scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Before their game, the Wildcats watched Mexia beat Krum 50-41. That gave Kennedale an idea of what to prepare for in Saturday’s final.
“I expect a track meet,” Hughes said. “Mexia is really active. They crash the boards and push the ball down the floor to attack the basket. I think the team that plays the best defense will win the ballgame.”