Sachse’s had some memorable moments in the playoffs during the last decade, but Friday will be tough to top.
The Mustangs appeared down for the count when Rockwall took its largest lead of the game at 42-29 with a little under five minutes remaining.
But Sachse dug deep and delivered big play after big play to claw back in it and give itself a chance.
Trailing by one with time winding down, freshman Neenah George dished the ball to Crislyn Rose and the sophomore did the rest, slicing through a pair of Yellowjacket defenders and knocking home the short jumper as time expired to give Sachse a 45-44 victory in a Class 6A bi-district playoff game at Rowlett High School.
“We knew we wanted Crislyn to take that shot because she’s a playmaker, but we also did want to hold it until the last shot,” Sachse head coach Donna McCullough said. “We wanted to at least get one good look at it and she did what she was supposed to, she created on her own, got her shot and was able to score.”
The Mustangs (12-7) advance to the area finals where will face the winner of the Killeen Harker Heights/Mansfield game next week.
The buzzer-beater was the finale of a string of clutch plays Sachse delivered down the stretch, as they closed on a 16-2 run.
Down by 13, senior Brianna Salazar knocked down the first of her two huge 3-pointers in the final minutes.
Freshman Londyn Oliphant followed with a layup and the Mustangs then again found Salazar and she again splashed a trey to draw to within 42-37 with three minutes left.
Rockwall briefly stopped the bleeding on a pair of free throws by Grace Hicks to push it back to seven, but George hit a runner to make it 44-39 with 2:26 left.
The Sachse defense had been the catalyst for the comeback and they forced another turnover that led to a layup by George, and on the next possession, George stole the ball and took it all the way herself for another lay-in to cut it to 44-43 with 47.9 seconds left.
The Mustangs almost forced another turnover, but were instead whistled for a foul. However, Rockwall missed the front end of a one-and-one to open the door with 28 seconds remaining.
Sachse opted to take the last shot, patiently running down the clock until getting the ball to Rose, who saw her opportunity and made the most of it to spark the celebration.
“We just put a lot of pressure on their guards … They did a good at the beginning of the game, but at the end when we started double-teaming at half court, it flustered them a little bit and we turned that into the full-court press and our girls tend to thrive on that,” McCullough said. “We call it organized chaos, there’s no rhyme to it, it just works, we have a lot of kids who work hard and hustle and go for the ball and usually when you do that, something good happens.”
Rose finished with a game-high 17 points, while George was also in double figures with 10 for the Mustangs, while the Yellowjackets got 11 points from Lindsey Schale an 10 each from Lexie Purcell and Ashley Minor.
It was a gratifying win for Sachse for a number of reasons and they go far beyond the adversity they battled through during the course of the game. This is a young team—one that started three freshmen and a sophomore on Friday—that started the season 1-5, but has stayed on course, even through a pandemic, and that commitment has paid off.
“Especially because we’ve had the three shutdowns, we haven’t been able to practice consistently throughout the season, so just playing these games has made us better,” McCullough said. “We are young and these kids are going to make mistakes, but they’re going to play their hearts out and sometimes it turns into great things and sometimes it goes the other way, so hopefully it keeps going our way.”
Rockwall walked off the court with an understandably stunned look, and for good reason, as it had controlled the action for much of the afternoon.
The unusual matinee start time did not affect the Yellowjackets early on, as Purcell opened the game with a three-point play and Schale and Ashley Brand knocked down 3-pointers.
Rose hit the first two treys she attempted to keep it close, but they would be the only Sachse points of the quarter, and a tough jumper by Brand to beat the first-quarter buzzer gave them a 13-6 lead.
The Mustangs closed to within three on a 15-footer by George, but Rockwall closed the half with back-to-back layups from Moore and Ashley Minor to take a 21-14 advantage into the break.
It appeared the game took a dramatic shift at the start of the third quarter, when Sachse reeled off a 7-0 run in 90 seconds. With a suddenly effective press setting up the offense, Micah Cooper swished a 3-pointer and George and Rose converted layups to tie it at 21-21.
The Yellowjackets maintained their composure, though, as a 3-pointer by Schale jumpstarted a 13-4 run as they took a 34-27 lead to the fourth quarter.
It looked as if Rockwall might run away with it, as its press break led to two layups from Moore, another by Purcell and two free throws from Minor gave them their largest lead of the game at 42-29.
But as they did to start the second half, the Mustangs got their pressure defense going to turn the tide, and this time, the Yellowjackets had no answer.