Martins Mill’s Haily Jenkins stopped moving upcourt, dribbled the ball in stationary fashion and watched the final seconds vanish from the clock. The resounding scene came at the end of the third quarter, perhaps reflecting Martins Mill being in complete control.
The outcome hardly in doubt from the beginning, No. 1 Martins Mill punched a ticket to the state tournament for the eighth straight season with a lopsided 70-34 victory against No. 8 Slocum in the Class 1A Division I Region III final on Saturday at Tyler Junior College’s Wagstaff Gymnasium.
Martins Mill (32-5) led 28-5 by the end of the first quarter and increased the advantage to 32 points by the break, eliminating Slocum (32-3) from the postseason in an emphatically overwhelming way.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Jenkins said after helping cut down the net. “We worked so hard as a team and we’ve pushed through everything together. It’s game on. Game. On. We’re ready to come out full speed (at state).”
Jenkins, a senior who this season overcame an ACL injury and returned to 100 percent, finished with 30 points to lead all scorers — scoring 20 in the first half alone. Fellow senior Taylor Munns no doubt was the most valuable defensive player, shadowing Slocum standout Valarie Larkin (20 ppg average) and holding the junior scoreless.
“Valarie can put up some points and we didn’t want her to get warmed up and get in a groove,” Martins Mill coach Doug Barncastle said. “I’ve been depending on Munns forever being a shutdown defender for us. I feel like if I put Taylor Munns on anybody’s best player, our four we’ve got left are better than their four they’ve got left.”
Martins Mill, which was tested by No. 15 Zavalla (53-46) in Friday’s regional semifinals, limited Slocum to only one 2-point basket the entire game. The bucket gave Slocum a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the game, an advantage that slipped away quickly and preceded a 16-0 Martins Mill run that spanned the next four minutes.
Martins Mill played its typical high-level basketball throughout, mixing a dangerous outside game with size in the paint and precision ball movement. The recipient of many assists below the basket was 6-0 sophomore Cheyenne Brown, who finished with a double-double at 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“Going back to state is a priviledge,” Brown said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. ... We want this so bad.”
Slocum was much more competitive in the second half, hitting five 3-pointers and stopping the game from getting more out of control than it already was. Slocum, which handed second-ranked Martinsville its first loss of the season (44-30) in the regional semifinals, was paced by sophomore Kelsee Webb’s 15-point effort.
The state tournament is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center in Austin. The 1A Division I semifinals are set for 8:30 and 10 a.m. Thursday, and the championship game is set for 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
“It’s special,” said Barncastle, referring to eight consecutive state appearances. “I’ve said this before and I will say it again, in my opinion it doesn’t have anything to do with the coaching. It has to do with the players coming through the program. They learn the system, they work (hard) every single day and that’s what it takes to have consistency in any program.
“We’ve got fan support and parent support. Sometimes I get a little excited and get onto the girls pretty hard, but you’ve got to have fanbase that’s OK with that knowing that I want what’s best for those kids.”
Class 1A Div. I Region III Final
At Wagstaff Gymnasium, Tyler Junior College
No. 1 Martins Mill 70, No. 8 Slocum 34
Martins Mill28151512 — 79
Slocum1561310 — 34
MARTINS MILL — Taylor Munns, 5; Meagan Weatherford, 9; Cheyenne Brown, 20; Haily Jenkins, 30; Cassidy McCoy, 3; Alyssa Pate, 3.
SLOCUM — Kaytie Jones, 2; Kelsee Webb, 15; Brice Sizemore, 5; Jordan Ives, 6; Landry Lane, 6.
THREE POINT GOALS — MM: Pate, Jenkins (5), McCoy, Munns. S: Webb (3), Lane (2).
RECORDS — Slocum 32-3; Martins Mill 32-5.
NEXT UP — Martins Mill vs. TBA, state semifinals.