Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Austin LBJ's size, savvy too much for Lincoln girls
Experienced inside trio dominates, outscoring entire Lady Tigers team
AUSTIN — It all started out so well for Lincoln on Thursday night. The opening tip ended up in the hands of BreAnna Hayden, who drove to the basket and scored less than five seconds into the Class 4A semifinal at the Frank Erwin Center.
Fast-reaking, fast-scoring basketball. That’s how the Lincoln girls wear out opponents, and that’s how the Lady Tigers hoped to beat Austin LBJ.
But against Lincoln’s fast-breakers, LBJ had the backbreakers:
Size, experience and 6-1 center Morgan Simmons.
Simmons scored 28 points and grabbed 19 rebounds as LBJ beat Lincoln, 59-48, ending the Lady Tigers’ hopes of a fourth state title. LBJ (28-4) will face Canyon (37-0) in the 4A final Saturday.
“We had a great year,” Lincoln coach Michael Ensley said. “We met and exceeded all expectations.”
Lincoln (29-4) did have a great year, but its chance to reach the state final began unraveling in the second quarter. That’s when LBJ’s inside trio of Simmons, Tierany Henderson and Alexia Hyder took control. They scored all of LBJ’s points in the first half as Lincoln fell in a 28-16 hole at the break, and by game’s end the trio had outscored Lincoln’s entire team and combined for 15 blocks.
Lincoln offset some of the size with its pressure defense, which contributed to 33 LBJ turnovers. But while forced into mistakes, LBJ also found ways to score after breaking the press. LBJ also had 18 fast-break points to just eight for Lincoln, which usually scores in transition as well as anyone.
For LBJ, which started four seniors and a junior, the experience showed. And for Lincoln, which started three sophomores and two juniors, the inexperience showed. The Tigers made just 15 of 66 field goal attempts and 14 of 27 free throws.
That helped LBJ’s lead balloon to 17 two minutes into the third quarter. Still, Lincoln kept battling.
“They woke up,” Ensley said, “and didn’t want to go out like that.”
But each time Lincoln tried to chip away, LBJ had an answer. Lincoln trimmed the lead to under 10 on a Hayden layup with three minutes remaining, but Simmons made a pair of free throws to make the score 55-44. After an LBJ steal, Simmons was fouled and made another free throw, and the climb looked steeper than ever.
Fortunately for Lincoln, a school that has been to the state tournament seven times since 1999, the next trip to state probably isn’t far away. Hayden, who led Lincoln with 12 points and nine rebounds, is a sophomore. Cameasha Turner, who added 11 points, is a junior.