SHINER — By halftime, the only questions fans may have had in reference to the Lady Cardinals’ playoff run was where will they be traveling next?
Shiner St. Paul blew out the Lake Jackson Brazosport Christian Lady Eagles 62-7 at home in the area round of the TAPPS 2A playoffs, advancing to the regional finals to face Austin Waldorf for the second year in a row.
“A win is always good, we’re happy to be moving on,” St. Paul head coach Dana Beal-Sestak said. “We’ve got some execution things that we got to work on. We’ve got to work on taking care of the ball better and being more patient in our offense, and getting the looks they were wanting to. I was pleased with the girls. Their effort was good. They played hard.”
Brazosport’s first score came with 1:57 left at the half, after going down 35-0 against the defending state champions. The five-player squad’s next few points came in the fourth quarter as St. Paul’s stifling defense allowed no points in the first and third frames of the game.
“Defensively we did a good job,” Beal-Sestak acknowledged. “We’ve been working on trying to fine tune our press just a little bit. We’ve kind of gotten away from what we’ve done in the past so we ran our full-court press. Then we tried to really work on our half-court press, get a little bit better at that, so we can give some teams some different looks.”
Offensively, it seemed the Lady Cardinals could do whatever they wanted. Whether it was a long-distance, three-pointer by Gracey Novosad or down low with post players such as Parker Clay, St. Paul found contributions from their starters and their bench.
“When we’re comfortable we’re able to shoot a lot of shots,” Beal-Sestak explained. “[Confidence] was the key, that’s what I told the girls after the game. We had some really nice shots tonight. [We need] to take the confidence we showed in our shooting tonight and continue with that.”
Shiner St. Paul shot 47.4 percent from the field with nine of the 14 players who logged minutes scoring buckets.
Leading the way was Novosad with 16 points. She missed just one shot, going six-of-seven including a perfect four-of-four from the three-point line. She also led the team in scoring with six steals.
Grace Irvin added 11 points and a team-leading six rebounds, while point guard Kayla Malatek had five points, three rebounds and a team-leading five assists. The Lady Cardinals combined for 28 steals in the game.
“That’s the advantage, playing that kind of game going into a big game,” Beal-Sestak said of her team’s success leading to the regional matchup against Austin Waldorf. “[This game] also gave us an opportunity to try different things as well.”
A little over an hour after the Lady Cardinals won, the whistle blew in Austin as Waldorf knocked off Bryan St. Joseph Catholic 48-35 to advance to the regional finals. St. Paul and Austin Waldorf played each other last year, with the eventual state champions knocking off Waldorf 39-30. In TAPPS’ final Krossover Coaches 2A Girls Basketball Rankings released on Feb. 13, the Lady Cardinals topped the rankings at number one while Austin Waldorf was ranked second.
The teams face off in Bastrop at Cedar Creek High School this Saturday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m.