For the second time in three seasons, the Brock Lady Eagles ran into a Wall at the Class 3A State Tournament.
However, despite their record-setting 24-21 loss to Wall in the state championship game, Brock coach Chance Westmoreland and his team believe this was a season of redemption.
The Lady Eagles lost five seniors from last season’s team that lost in the third round of the postseason to eventual champion Sunnyvale. Prior to that, Brock had reached the state finals six consecutive years, winning five titles from 2009-13 before losing 48-44 to Wall in 2014.
"After losing in the third round, and graduating all those seniors, no one thought we’d even win district (they shared the 11-3A title with Grandview)," said senior forward Allie Popeck. "To make it to the final game says a lot."
It says a lot about the tradition and will to win that encompasses the Brock program. For eight straight seasons the Lady Eagles have either won state or lost to the state champion in the postseason.
Still, the ending that was shy of state in 2015 hurt and was a strong motivator for this season, said Westmoreland.
"Last year was tough on us. We didn’t make regionals or state. The whole year it’s been a goal to get back," he said.
"Those eight years are all based on two things, defense and rebounding the ball."
Harrell said the loss to Sunnyvale has been on their minds every day since last season.
"We started (working toward state) the week after we lost," she said.
At state that defense rose to its highest. In the semifinals the Lady Eagles (34-5) had no trouble disposing of Little River Academy 53-31.
In the finals, Brock’s defense had perhaps its best game of the season, holding Wall to 24 points. The Lady Hawks, however, had an even better defense, holding the Lady Eagles to 21.
The combined 45 points is the lowest ever for a state championship game, eclipsing the previous mark of 46 (Hamilton 27, Morton 19 in 1952). Wall’s score is also the lowest ever for a state champion.
"That’d be alright if we were on the winning side," said Westmoreland. "Our defense was great. Two or three times we made a mistake and they made us pay, and that was the difference."
Brock scored the first four points in the title game, but trailed 13-6 at the half. With less than two minutes to play they trailed 19-13.
But a 3-point basket by senior Trisha Jacobs and another by senior Rachel Harrell, and suddenly the Lady Eagles were within 21-19 with 47 seconds left.
At that point, Westmoreland said he thought destiny might be on his team’s side.
"I really did. We struggled so much, but when we hit those shot, I thought so," said Westmoreland.
With three seconds remaining, the Lady Eagles had a shot to tie the game and force overtime, but it went awry.
Harrell and Jacobs were named to the all-state tournament team.
"Two years ago we had a 10-point lead with a minute left. Brock has a great program," said Wall coach Tate Lombard. "Harrell has made big baskets against us before."
The Lady Eagles will return two starters next season, sophomores Emilee Popeck and Rylee Lavender. The rest of the returning roster includes (grade this season) juniors Breeanna Brackney, Taylor Hayes, and Lindy Drillette; sophomore Parker King; and freshmen Jessica Leek, Brooklyn McCall, Lacie McKinzie, Bryland Barrett, and Reanna White. They graduate four seniors, Emily Wahlenmaier, along with starters Harrell, Allie Popeck and Jacobs.
While the season did not end with the program’s ninth championship since 2002, Westmoreland said it was still something to remember.
"We gave our community something great to be proud of," he said. "This shows a lot of character and resolve. They’re going to do a lot in life. I’m very proud of them."’