Written by Corbett Smith
Smothering defense turns tide for Lovejoy in 3A semifinal
AUSTIN — For Lovejoy’s high-pressure attack, it was a godsend.
For the better part of the game, the officials for the Class 3A semifinal between Lovejoy and Fairfield put their whistles away.
And Lovejoy took advantage, forcing Fairfield into 32 turnovers that resulted in 31 points en route to a 62-44 win.
“I think that runs in our favor … because we play such a high-intensity defense,” Lovejoy coach Kelly Connor said. “When it’s a little bit loose, then it’s usually in our favor.”
Lovejoy (29-10) will face Abilene Wylie (25-14) at 10 a.m. on Saturday for the 3A title.
Both Lovejoy and Fairfield were making their inaugural trips to Austin for the state tournament, and it showed. Neither team protected the ball nor shot well from the field.
But Lovejoy — which shot 25.7 percent from the floor in the first half — limited Fairfield’s field goal attempts with scrappy defense.
“We always find a way,” Lovejoy guard Katherine McBride said.
Fairfield missed its first eight shots, committing eight turnovers during that span, before making its first field goal with 44 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
By that time, Lovejoy had jumped out to an 11-4 lead.
The more physical it became, the more Lovejoy pulled away.
“That gets our momentum, our intensity up,” Lovejoy guard Millie Rivera said. “If we start out strong on defense and start out pressuring, than we are going to be more into it than if we are going to just back up and let them set their offense.”
Like they have done all season, the senior trio of guards — Kathryn Odom, McBride and Rivera — set the pace for Lovejoy offensively. All three scored in double figures, with Rivera leading all scorers with 19 points. Odom had 14, McBride had 11 points and eight rebounds, and Lovejoy freshman Shani Rainey added 10 points.
The final will be a rematch of the Lovejoy Whataburger tournament final, which Abilene Wylie won, 73-66. Wylie junior, and future Texas Longhorn, Peyton Little scored 33 in the win.