Nazareth girls grind out defensive win for 25th state title

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The Nazareth Swiftettes celebrate after winning the UIL Class 1A state championship against Huckabay on Saturday morning at the Alamodome in San Antonio. [Naomi Skinner/ For Press Pass Sports]

Saturday’s first UIL Girls State championship game won’t earn a lot of style points when it comes to historic critiques in years to come.

However, having won 24 of those previous games in their storied history, the Nazareth Swiftettes know that those kind of points don’t mean anything. And even scoring zero in the first quarter couldn’t keep them from getting their 25th.

Nazareth survived a scoreless first quarter against Huckabay in the Class 1A title game by using stout defense and chipping away with just enough offense to take over in the third quarter. That resulted in the Swiftettes grinding out a 30-20 victory Saturday morning at San Antonio’s Alamodome to give them their state record 25th state championship.

“It’s kind of been the theme of the playoffs,” said Nazareth coach Eric Schilling of finding a way to win. “This team never panics, and they definitely never quit. We never know what’s going to be working for us game in and game out because we have so many different things that work for us.”

Nazareth’s Brooklyn Birkenfeld goes up for a lay in over two Huckabay defenders at the Alamodome on Saturday. [Naomi Skinner/ For Press Pass Sports]

It marked the seventh state championship for Nazareth in the last 10 years under Schilling, a Nazareth alum.

It didn’t start off like anything the Swiftettes (31-9) would be able to celebrate. They went scoreless in the first quarter as Huckabay (40-3) took a 6-0 lead.

“It’s not the way you really want to start a state championship, but these girls have been here and know what it takes to pull through,” Schilling said. “If there’s anything you can do to get their nerves chill and compete you do that.”

Defense was what kept Nazareth in striking range. Huckabay extended the lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter before the Swiftettes even scored, and they generated enough offense to cut the lead to 14-9 at halftime.

The third quarter is where the game turned entirely. Nazareth’s Presley Wheeler scored the first eight points of the half, and her 3-pointer gave the Swiftettes a 17-14 lead which they never relinquished.

By the end of the third quarter, Nazareth led 22-17. The Swiftettes put the game away when Brooklyn Dyer scored the first seven points of the quarter.

Nazareth’s Presley Wheeler earned UIL Class 1A championship MVP honors. [Naomi Skinner/ For Press Pass Sports]

Dyer, who replaced starting point guard Harley Gerber in the lineup when Gerber tore an ACL earlier in the playoffs, had a game-high 10 points. Wheeler, who finished with nine points, was named the championship game MVP.

Huckabay entered the game ranked No. 1 in the state. While this Nazareth team might not have as impressive a record as some of the previous state title games, that’s largely due to the rugged schedule the Swiftettes faced before district play.

“We’re going to play a tough schedule and it prepares us for days like this,” Schilling said.

Nazareth      0  9  22  30
Huckabay  6  14  17  20
N– Brooklyn Dyer 10, Presley Wheeler 9. H- Rion Baccus 7, Gracie McDowell 6. Records: Nazareth 31-9, Huckabay 40-3.

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