It could be said that by any standard the Gruver Lady Greyhounds had two great seasons in a row.
Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into two straight UIL Class 2A championship seasons Saturday afternoon at San Antonio’s Alamodome.
In a state championship game where neither team led by more than seven points, it came down to free throw shooting between Gruver and Lipan. With only one field goal by either team in the last three minutes, Lipan made more trips to the free throw line, and that translated to a 53-48 win over the Lady Greyhounds.
That meant Gruver (30-6) didn’t repeat as state champion. It was a tall order to ask of a team which lost 70 percent of its scoring from last season, most notably Bailey Maupin, who’s now playing at Texas Tech.
Nonetheless, the Greyhounds were back in the title game.
“It was a heck of a game,” Gruver coach Trent Lankford said. “We weren’t supposed to be here after the success we had last year and the things that we lost. These kids are awesome, and as much as they left out of the floor as basketball players, they are that much better people.”
Both teams made the case that they deserved to be the best in the state. Gruver’s biggest lead came midway through the second quarter after Brenna Butler scored on a layup to give the Lady Greyhounds a 20-14 lead.
However, Lipan (35-3) scored the last eight points of the half, the last four by Taylor Branson, to take a 22-20 halftime lead.
“The game went like we thought it would,” Lankford said. “We knew it was going to be back and forth with two good teams going at it. If you judge by what we did yesterday (a 45-32 win over Hearn in the semifinal) you might think that Lipan would run away with it, but I know who these kids are.”
Lipan went up by as many as seven points in the third quarter, but Gruver cut the margin to 34-32 by the end of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Gruver didn’t have the lead until Allie Sparks hit a 3-pointer to give the Greyhounds a 42-40 lead with 3:14 left. It would be their last field goal of the season.
The Lady Greyhounds would lead two more times after Sparks and Kimber Whitehead both hit a pair of free throws, the last of which gave Gruver a 46-45 lead with 1:24 left. But Lipan made six straight free throws while Gruver went cold to take the lead for good.
Whitehead led Gruver with 14 points and Sparks had 13. Chelsea Lott had a game-high 16 for Lipan.
Gruver 10 20 32 48
Lipan 11 22 34 53
G– Kimber Whitehead 14, Allie Sparks 13. L– Chelsea Lott 16, Taylor Branson 12, Trinity Benitez 10. Records: Gruver 30-6, Lipan 35-3.