JUSTIN — It was a night that meant everything to Lake Dallas.
Entering the night, the Lady Falcons’ girls basketball team had already accomplished so much. They split a District 8-5A title with state-ranked Denton Braswell. They won a bi-district playoff game for the first time in 12 years. They won in the area round for the first time in 12 years.
And now they added some more hardware to their history-making season.
With the stands full, Lake Dallas earned its way to a 50-43 win over Fort Worth Boswell at Justin Northwest on Tuesday, punching its ticket to the 5A Region I semifinals and setting up a tilt against defending state champion Amarillo.
“Our whole town was here watching us,” said Jorja Elliott, Lake Dallas sophomore. “They believed in us. At school, they’ve been telling us good luck and stuff. It’s really cool to see how we’ve gotten this far and people are believing in us.”
For much of the contest, it was a game of runs until the very final buzzer sounded.
Lake Dallas went up 15-7 after one quarter in an eight-minute display that showcased so many different things. Senior Dorian Norris scored 12 points and the defense forced six turnovers while allowing seven points.
Yet Boswell came back, eventually took a 31-29 lead with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter and forced Lake Dallas head coach Jordan Davis into a timeout, a time in which the Lady Falcons found their rhythm and clawed their way back like they have so many times this season.
Over the final 9:34, Lake Dallas outscored Boswell 21-12, sealing the game on a pair of free throws from senior Josephine Elliott with 25 seconds left on the clock.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Davis said. “We’ve just got to go execute. We’ve got to make sure we take care of what we’ve been working on. The looks and things that we got after that timeout was stuff that we’ve done in practice, in games. We just had to remind them that, ‘Hey, that’s what we need to do.’ We just executed there at the end.”
Norris and Jorja Elliott shined once again in another dominant postseason outing from the duo.
Norris scored a team-high 20 points, which gives her 59 in the three postseason games following her 22 points against Azle and 17 versus Mansfield Legacy. Meanwhile, Jorja Elliott finished with 15 points for a second consecutive contest.
“They’ve had some huge games,” Davis said. “That’s a senior not wanting her season to end. You’ve got a sophomore that just keeps pushing and stepping up. Jorja is one of those that I can probably ride super hard and look at me and go, ‘You’re right. That’s me.’ That’s something that’s just invaluable when you have that.”
Within the stellar outing for Norris was a crucial offensive rebound in the waning seconds that proved to be one of the most important plays of the season. Norris, whose presence was felt in all ends of the game with rebounds and steals, pulled out an offensive board following a missed free throw to set up a Jorja Elliott layup to make it a 47-40 game and give the team just the cushion it needed down the stretch.
“We may not win the game if we don’t get that rebound right there because we missed that free throw and it’s like, ‘Oh, geez.’” Davis said. “But she gets a hand on it, gets it out there and we’ve got a whole new kind of reset right there, which was just great.”
Behind the duo of Norris and Jorja Elliott was Josephine Elliott’s six points, freshman Altyn Bartley’s four points, sophomore Bailey Broughton’s three points and sophomore Allie Buchanan’s two points.
And it was Bartley who also made impactful plays off the bench that helped Lake Dallas extend its season another day. Bartley hauled in multiple rebounds and had a number of hustle plays on both ends of the court next to her four points, giving a key bench spark after dealing with an injury that held her to eight games during the regular season.
“Altyn has had that injury that’s kept her out a lot of the season,” Davis said. “Honestly, we went based on practice last Saturday and Monday. She was going to get rebounds. She was getting a hand on the ball. She was finishing. That kind of stuff translates. I was like, ‘Hey, she’s been doing that in practice. We can put her in to do it in a game.’ She did great. Just really stepped up.”
With Amarillo on deck in the regional tournament, set for 4 p.m. Friday at The Coliseum in Snyder, Lake Dallas is excited and ready to face the 2019 state champion and the team tabbed No. 1 in the final Texas Association of Basketball Coaches 5A regular-season poll.
“Too excited,” Norris said. “I’m so excited. I’m just happy to be here in round 4.”