The Hackberry Mustangs celebrate after winning their first state championship in a decade. The mustangs beat Summerfield for the Class C title. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, March 08, 2014 6:40 PMSitting with four fouls and on the bench to start the fourth quarter with the Class C state championship on the line wasn’t where Hackberry senior center Destiny Simon wanted to be.
Not when the No. 3-seeded Summerfield Rebels closed the gap to three points.
It was under those circumstances, with three of the Mustangs’ senior leaders — Simon, Mattie Stine and Jolie Trahan — carrying at least three fouls that a sophomore stepped up.
The fourth, Skyler Jinks, was a defensive focus of Summerfield’s game plan after scoring 19 points in the 50-43 win over Plainview in the semifinals Tuesday night.
The group so accustomed to winning many state championships in softball and track allowed a sophomore, Kaye Leigh LaBove, to provide the spark in a 7-0 run that helped lift No. 1 Hackberry to a 46-35 win for its first state championship in girls basketball in a decade.
“We’ve had to do it before,” Hackberry head coach Jay Bergeron said. “(Destiny’s) been in foul trouble and we’ve had to come out with a smaller group and get it done. That’s where our bench comes in huge.”
Perhaps even this ending was a bit out of left field, though. LaBove, who barely factored into Hackberry’s semifinal win, ended the game with four points and an assist.
But the first bucket and the assist came when Summerfield (21-13) was threatening the Mustangs (29-4). LaBove accounted for five of the seven points in the run that put Hackberry up 38-28 with 4 minutes to play.
The dagger came on the assist. LaBove attacked the right side of the basket, pulling a second defender with her to leave Jinks open for her only three points of the game with 5:32 left to play.
“We drew that up,” Bergeron said. “We told them since the summer that speed kills, and Kaye Leigh is flat faster than (Summerfield center Moniqua Battle) and (center Lakota Smith). We isolated Kaye Leigh out. As soon as they brought help we knew it was coming from the corner.”
“It was excitement,” Jinks said. “I knew otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten the ball; they were on me. Once she kicked it out I knew it was the shot I had to take.”
Hackberry limited Summerfield to 20 percent shooting and made its star guard, Nicole Bursey, work for all 18 of her points.
“We knew coming in that we had to stop one person, and that’s (Bursey),” Bergeron said.
Simon, who led all scorers with 24 points, put six of them up in the final frame while under the threat of fouling out.
“I knew I could take them. I had the speed, they didn’t,” Simon said. “When I got into foul trouble I got a little nervous. I told myself I wouldn’t get in foul trouble. I did,” she said laughing.
A group so used to winning in other sports finally got the basketball title it was missing.
“It’s an awesome feeling to know we finally did it,” Jinks said. “We finally got it.”