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State Tourney: Lutheran South Battles for Girls Basketball Title

Ted Dunnam, Feb. 28, 2014

The fashion in which the Lutheran South Academy girls’ basketball team has reached the state tournament reinforces the old axiom that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

The LSA girls’ team, an ever-improving unit, found its identity late in the season, went into the district tournament as the fourth seed and then started producing wonders. Succesfully meshing LSA’s young talent has been head coach Garret Riveness.

The Lady Pioneers (28-10) take on Houston Second Baptist at 6 p.m., at Mansfield Lake Ridge in the state semifinal tonight. The girls’ title game Saturday is set for 1 p.m.

“We played them (Second Baptist) right after the Christmas break, and they beat us by 10,” Riveness said. “Then, we played them in the district tournament championship and we won by eight.”

Playing Second Baptist a third time isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to the Lady Pioneer head coach.

“I think it’s good - the more you can prepare is always better,” Riveness said. “We know what each other wants to do, it’s just a matter of executing.

I think it’s going to boil down to who is able to get the game at the tempo they want, and we want the fast tempo.”

LSA’s transformation throughout the season has been akin to Jekyll-Hyde proportions.

“We finished the regular season and went to the district tournament as the No. 4 seed,” Riveness said. “We played Fort Bend Christian, which we beat by three in the regular season, and beat them by 30 in the tournament.”

“We turned around and played Westbury Christian, which we had lost to by 30, and we beat them by 19. We played Second Baptist in the championship game and won 55-47.”

When the full-fledged postseason unfolded, LSA continued its remarkable play.

“Austin Regents was a tough opponent, and we won that game (37-33), in a lower scoring game than we like,” Riveness said. “After that, we went to Victoria to play Incarnate Word, which was a senior-heavy team.”

“That was a tough battle, but we got a steal with 20 seconds left and were able to secure the win (56-55).”

The Lady Pioneers have found success with teamwork.

“Ashley Ford is a junior who can play any position and she can really do it all. Brooke and Megan Golden, sophomore twin guards and Courtney Gilliam, a junior, give us a very strong back court.”

“But for us, it’s just about everyone giving it their best shot, not being afraid to fail, and if you struggle in one area, finding another way to help the team. The other night in Victoria, Brooke (Golden) had a tough time offensively, but she got 10 steals. Morgan Burnley didn’t score, but she had 12 rebounds.”

In taking the difficult route to state, the LSA girls have secured the school’s first district championship in basketball since 1992 and are making LSA’s first Final Four appearance since 1980. That year, the Lady Pioneers lost in the finals.

“These girls are almost always smaller and younger than anybody they play,” Riveness said. “They’ve been underdogs almost the whole way, but they believe in themselves and they’re not afraid to fail so they just go for it. They’ve figured out when you play that way, you can play anybody.”

“So often girls are hesitant to put themselves totally out there, physically, emotionally, or whatever. They hold back because they don’t want to mess up and be criticized. But when that’s not a part of the culture, and you know you’re only going to be supported and loved and encouraged, you are free to just go for it and that’s when special things start to happen.”

“We’re certainly making an exciting run but whether we win the state championship or not, the most important thing is that these girls just continue to soak it all up and make incredible memories.”