Rockwall girls roar back to beat Bryan Rudder

GARLAND, Texas -- Rockwall trailed for the vast majority of its regional semifinals game against Bryan Rudder on Friday, but it led at the only point that matters -- the end.

The Lady Jackets trailed by as many as 10 points in the third quarter but stayed resilient to steal a 48-46 win at the Garland Special Events Center.

They advance to face West Mesquite (31-7) in the Class 4A Region II finals at 3 p.m. Saturday. West Mesquite ousted Highland Park, 62-51.

"We sat in the locker room at halftime and said 'We are not going to lose this game, there's no way,'" Rockwall post Alyssa Lang said. "We knew it was going to come down to the wire like that

Nothing went right for Rockwall (32-7) in the first half. Lang, the team's leading scorer, was held to six points while Rudder point guard Lamaria Cole went off to give her team a 25-18 halftime lead.

But after halftime, Rockwall coach Jill McDill moved defensive specialist Paige Turner off of Rudder's Fatima Adams -- their leading scorer -- and on to Cole.

"We moved Paige to the point guard at halftime because she had so many points," McDill said. "Paige did a great job and really frustrated her."

As a result, Rockwall started getting turnovers, Cole went cold after collecting her fourth foul, and the Lady Jackets began to chip away at Rudder's lead.

While Lang was mauled in the paint in the first half, she found space in the second thanks to the sharp shooting of Kayla Smith, who finished with 18 points, most of which came in the second half.

With Rudder now having to give Smith attention, Lang started doing what she does best -- dominating in the paint. She finished with a game-high 19 points and had six rebounds.

But it was Smith who provided the late-game heroics. Her jumper with less than two minutes remaining gave Rockwall the lead, and she broke a tie with 1.9 seconds left in the game by connecting on two free throws.

"We knew it was going to come down to the wire like that," Lang said. "Kayla Smith stepped up. She's our captain and we knew she was going to make it happen."

Rudder opened the game with a 10-0 run behind the play of Cole. After Rockwall tied the game at 15 early in the second, her scoring outburst powered an 8-0 run that gave the Lady Rangers a 25-18 halftime lead.