AUSTIN, Texas -- The remainder of Mansfield Summit guard Maya Hawkins' season was in jeopardy after she sustained a severe ankle sprain in January.
Hawkins missed three playoff games, but as Summit team continued to win she knew there was no way she could miss the state tournament.
Saturday, playing at about 90 percent, Hawkins gave an MVP-worthy performance in Summit's 45-42 win over Rockwall to claim the Clas 4A girls state title.
Hawkins scored a team-high 19 points and tied for the lead in rebounds with five. Hawkins also was a key factory in Summit’s suffocating defense in the fourth quarter.
“Tonight was by far the best she’s played in four playoff games,” Summit coach Tammy Lusinger said. “Her shot definitely came back after they wouldn’t even let her shoot a ball for four weeks.”
After making a third-quarter comeback on the shoulders of center Alyssa Lang, Rockwall kept the score tight for the majority of the fourth quarter.
Lang worked her way through Summit’s defense with spins and dribbles, forcing Summit to play an extremely tight man-to-man set -- a staple of Summit’s play all season.
“All 15 players on this team bust their hiney on defense and we commit to that year-round, it’s not just now,” Lusinger said. “They play and they play hard.”
Rockwall coach Jill McDill said Summit was one of the best defensive teams she’s ever faced.
“We just knew that defense wins games and we just told each other to make defensive stops, and that fired us up,” Hawkins said. “So when we set that goal to get a stop and we reached it, it just got everyone fired up and excited about it and it helped us on the offensive end.”
Lang still finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds for Rockwall, but poor free throw shooting ultimately led to the demise of the Yellowjackets. Rockwall shot just 52.2 percent from the line (12-23), including just 37.5 percent in the second half. Rockwall missed three key free throws with under a minute to play and trailing by no more than two points.
“We haven’t shot very well from the free throw line this year at all,” McDill said. “Somehow we kind of escaped that in the playoffs.”
McDill, a girls state tournament veteran, has been on both sides of a state final. But for all Rockwall has overcome this year, from struggles in the regular season to dealing with injuries, she hopes her team views the weekend as a celebration of its own.
“I always stayed and watched the medals; watched someone celebrate and someone cry," McDill said. "It’s always better to be celebrating, but we’ll tell the girls it was great to be here.”