By BRAD KEITH
GRAFORD (December 30, 2016) — Tournament MVP Emmy Rodriguez hit four 3-pointers and scored 20 points as Huckabay (17-2) demolished Bland, 67-27, in the championship of the Graford/Possum Kingdom Lake Invitational Friday evening.
The No. 4 Lady Indians dominated from the onset, jumping out to a 20-9 lead by the end of the first and using its high-intensity, full-court trap to score the first 13 of the second for a 33-9 margin. It was 43-13 by the end of the first half, making the rest a mere formality for tournament officials and a countdown to championship celebration time for Huckabay.
Presli Bray and Kailin Dowell joined Rodriguez on the all-tournament team, selected by officials at Graford ISD. Bray was everywhere defensively, and along with Dowell set the tone for the energy level brought by Huckabay that Bland was never able to match. Dowell scored 16 and Bray nine in the final, while Ciara Phillips added seven, Brenna Yarbrough six, Trinity Meador three, Savanna Graves two, Madison Pearson two and Gracie Barrett two.
Bland fans were already talking behind press row about a possible playoff matchup a couple months down the road between Huckabay and perennial power Dodd City. While such conversations will have to wait as far as head coach Caleb Walls is concerned, he is pleased with the progress of not just this team, but the program as a whole in his three years back following a one-year hiatus from the HISD.
“It is kind of surreal. I mean when I came back I knew what we had coming up with this group of girls you’re seeing now, but if I said I expected us to be ranked where we’re at I would be lying,” said a humble Walls following the championship, Huckabay’s second this season after also winning a tourney in Perrin. “It’s not me, it’s these girls. They work hard every day and they want to be great. They want to keep getting better and that’s their mindset and focus.”
It showed coming back from the Christmas break, when many high school teams are merely trying to knock off the rust.
“I was pleased with how we came back and how focused all our girls were. We have good leadership and they have a good supporting cast and they worked really well together the last three days,” said Walls, whose club also defeated district rival Gordon, 55-27, in the semifinal round and lowly Saint Jo, 68-6, in the opener. “We still have things to work on and improve on, but it was a good tournament.
They outscored their three tournament opponents by a combined 190-60. It all started with defense.
“We have a defense-first mindset, that’s who we are, and that’s who I want us to be,” said Walls. “The girls take pride in their defense and it really shows. Presli and Kailin are kind of the instigators of that in our press, and they really get us going, and that usually gets us going offensively.”
That was certainly the case in the championship, when countless Bland turnovers were turned into transition buckets by the Lady Indians, who have yet to lose to a 1A opponent. Their only losses are to 2A Hico and Windthorst.
“I can’t say enough about these girls. They work hard and they deserve this, so I’m proud of them,” said Walls.
Homecoming is next up for Huckabay, which welcomes Gordon to the Teepee on January 6.