(Written by Matt Davenport) The Lady Eagles outplayed the Abilene Wylie Bulldogs through four quarters and won the 4A UIL girls’ basketball state championship game 46-25 in the Alamodome on Mar. 7. This victory came after Argyle’s 58-54 victory over the La Vega Pirates in the state semi-finals.
Coach Skip Townsend, who surpassed 1,000 career wins earlier this season, is highly credited by the players for bringing them to this point.
“Since our freshman year when Coach Townsend came here, it was quite a roller coaster from then to now,” senior center Delaney Sain said. “From my freshman year, I couldn’t even imagine getting the gold at state. It’s a huge accomplishment, and we owe it all to Coach Townsend.”
Delaney is one of two senior starters, along with Jesse Sheridan, who have been on this journey with Townsend through their entire high school careers.
“When we got here four years ago, Delaney and Jesse started for us as freshman, and I made a promise to them, a commitment to them,” Townsend said. “I told these girls one of these days we were going to have a big time team, and y’all just need to buy in to what we do. This is the culmination of four years of hard work by these seniors.”
All year, the Lady Eagles have faced higher ranked or larger teams and that played a critical role in preparing the girls for this tournament.
“We were ready for this tournament, and we really didn’t care what our ranking was. We just knew that we wanted to be ready physically and mentally to come play against these types of girls,” Townsend said. “Those weren’t the first two 6’4 girls we played against this year. We played against some 6’4 all-americans and won. That built our confidence. Last year, when we came against La Vega, we may have been a little scared of those people, but this year, we wanted to come get them; we were ready for them.”
One of the players who has benefitted most from Townsend’s coaching and the increased level of competition is sophomore Vivian Gray, who led the team in points and rebounds in each of the Lady Eagle’s state tournament games.
“I remember back in 7th grade when Coach Townsend came, and he told me he wouldn’t stop yelling at me until I got a gold medal around my neck,” Gray said. “It just all came back to me, and it’s awesome.”
Gray contributed heavily on offense, but she was also a key cog in the Argyle defense that shut down Wylie’s offense for most of the game.
“We told our girls this is your man; go take them,” Townsend said. “Make it personal. It’s a personal thing when they score on you. We played great team defense; it’s not a one-on-one deal. We played defense tonight like we always play defense, but we just turned it up a notch.”
One of the least appreciated, but most dominant defensive players for Argyle is Delaney Sain, who for the second straight game, shut down a much larger center.
“She’s tough down there,” Townsend said. “She’s really smart on defense, she knows how to get the right position and she doesn’t get bumped around. She just did a great job of keeping a hand up, not fouling and getting on the free throw line.”
Argyle’s game plan for Wylie was similar to their plan for La Vega: play hard defense, get the other team in foul trouble, and shoot make-able shots.
“We get the ball in these girls’ hands, and they knock them down,” Townsend said. “I told them, we may not get the easy shots against this team because they’re a tough defense. We never lost the ball, we made them foul us hard, and we went up there and knocked them down and made them pay for it. That’s how you win championships, and that’s what we did tonight.”
After falling short in the 2014 state championship game, Townsend credited one attribute in particular to this year’s team’s success: toughness.
“We’ve matured as a team,” Townsend said, “and now we’re the ones putting the hurts on people, instead of them putting the hurts on us. We’ve changed that mentality and that’s why we’re champions.”