After losing on this same court one year ago, the Frisco Liberty girls basketball came back hungry and ready to hoist the trophy the next chance they could step foot on that piece of hardwood.
One year later, the Lady Redhawks fulfilled their prophecy, celebrating on the same court they came so close to winning the state championship in 2019. As players ran on the court, hugged everyone and ran to their fans to celebrate what they just accomplished, they reveled in a 35-26 victory over the San Antonio Veterans Memorial Lady Patriots in the UIL 5A state championship game Saturday at the Alamodome for their first-ever state title.
“Just coming through the whole season with a different mindset,” said Jazzy Owens-Barnett, Frisco Liberty sophomore guard. “Once we really started rolling, we realized like, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this again, but we’re going to be on the good side of things. To be able to have everybody locked in and working from easy games to hard games and be able to be here today is just amazing.”
No matter what happened throughout the course of the afternoon, Liberty held its composure and never got rattled by some mini flurries from Veterans Memorial at multiple points of the contest.
A 9-0 run from Veterans Memorial to end the first quarter – which put Liberty in an 11-6 hole – was part of a long 6:57 scoreless drought from Liberty, but that was answered with a dazzling display in the second frame that saw Liberty hold its opponent to just two points – which included no points in the final 4:27- and take a 15-13 lead in the locker room.
Veterans Memorial would then score five straight points right out of the gate to take an 18-15 lead to begin the second half, yet once again, there was Liberty fighting its way back and never succumbing to some momentum taken from the other side. The Lady Redhawks scored the ensuing six points of the quarter and did not surrender a basket in the final 6:07 of the period, recording another sizeable scoring drought from its stifling defense.
After that, Veterans Memorial would never get within closer than two points, as a 14-8 final quarter and the third straight quarter that Liberty gave up a single-digit point total lifted it to heights it had never been to before until Saturday afternoon in South Texas.
“There’s adults in our daily living and in our jobs that don’t have that kind of composure and that kind of bounce back, but you’ve also got to have the brain to be able to do that,” said Ross Reedy, Frisco Liberty head coach. “This group of kids, they were pretty special in that respect.”
That defense, accompanied by a patient offense, played a crucial role in Liberty’s victory
The Lady Patriots made nine total shots in the game, with five coming in the first half and four coming in the second. Following their 11-point first quarter, they were limited to two in the second, five in the third and eight in the fourth versus to give them 26 total for the game and their second-lowest scoring output of the campaign.
“It’s the composure,” Reedy said. “Obviously we have longer possessions offensively, which helps our defense, but also because of the way that we play defense. All of them can guard all five positions. They play as a unit. Zoe and Jazzy are really good ball defenders. Other than that, we really don’t have great ball defenders, but we have people that use their length well and use their positioning well and collectively they do all of that stuff. It’s in sync. It does create a rhythm.”
Owens-Barnett was named the MVP of the game, highlighting her resilient effort after the state semifinals contest Thursday.
Two days preceding her seven-point day against College Station in a 44-41 overtime win, Owens-Barnett continually drew fouls and got her way to the line, finishing with a team-high 14 points, an 8-of-10 mark at the free throw line and four rebounds.
“To have that kind of bounce back as a young person in this kind of stage and not let that get to you,” Reedy said. “She even had a rough first quarter. She’s had just tremendous leadership, a tremendous amount of confidence, and it’s important that it’s the right amount of confidence. It’s true self-belief. It’s not arrogance. It’s done working every day. It’s done poured into others and being accountable.
“All of those intangibles are what make the game work. Obviously, she’s a special athlete. Obviously, she can do some big-time things, and she’ll be one of the best two-way basketball players, if she’s not already, in the state, she will be over the course of the next couple of years. But it’s those intangibles that really set her apart.”
Junior guard Maya Jain chipped in 10 points – including Liberty’s first six of the game on a pair of 3-pointers to put the team up 6-2 – next to three rebounds, two assists and one steal. Junior Lily Ziemkiewicz scored five points with two rebounds, two assists and a steal after dropping 16 and hitting the game-winning 3 in the semifinals. Sophomore guard Ashley Anderson scored three and hauled in four rebounds, junior guard Zoe Junior had two points and two rebounds while freshman guard Jazelle Jolie Moreno scored one point in addition to her three rebounds and one block.
“It’s a lot different just coming out of that with a win,” Jain said. “I think it’s a great feeling for everyone on the team and everyone who supports us.”