By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO - Carling Urben and her Lady Eagles teammates knew what they had to do to win.
Only, the extra-talented Pflugerville junior varsity didn't let them do any of it.
Running a fast-paced pressure offense, the youthful Lady Panthers blitzed host Salado into getting out of its methodical comfort zone and walked away from the 10th annual Coach Smith Memorial Tournament as champions with a 57-29 win Saturday afternoon at Eagles Gym.
"I just think we got riled and after a certain point, it took us a while to slow down and get focused," said Urben, who scored just two of her team-high 12 points in the second half.
For a Lady Eagles team that had won its last two games by a comfortable margin, mostly by deliberately working the
ball into the paint to senior posts Kirstie McGillick and Urben, the athletic pace of the Pflugerville JV was a bit of a shock to the system.
"That was the game plan, that's what we wanted to do, we just didn't execute," Salado coach Jeanette McKinney said. "I think it was just (our) inexperience. We get caught up in the tempo and that's not us. We can't play like that, and we proved that."
Trying to keep pace with Pflugerville, the Lady Eagles turned the ball over on eight straight possessions midway through the first quarter as the Lady Panthers put together a 9-0 run to make it 14-4 with 3:58 left in the opening frame.
"I think we wanted to overcompensate, and in doing that, we were too (jumpy)," Urben said. "Overcompensating hurt us I think."
Despite the Lady Panthers mounting their first double-digit advantage so early, Salado found ways to battle back on several occasions.
But it wasn't until about a minute left in the first half that the Lady Eagles finally ran their offense.
Following back-to-back steals by Pflugerville, the first of which resulted in a short jumper by sophomore Alyssa Echols for a 25-15 lead, Salado senior point guard Alexis Bowman called for a slow down.
At the top of the key, Bowman started directing traffic, signaling for Urben to cut to the basket before feeding the 6-2 post in the lane for a layup and the and-one opportunity.
Although Urben would miss the freebie, she made up for it with 24 seconds left with a fancy hookshot that cut Pflugerville's lead to 25-19 at halftime.
But coming out of the locker room after the break, Salado couldn't muster the same steady hand as 10 turnovers allowed the Lady Panthers to pull ahead 40-26 entering the fourth. But things continued to snowball with six straight turnovers to open the quarter as Pflugerville built its first 20-point lead, 46-26, with 5:17 left.
"If we learn from it, great, then it was worth the sting of the loss," McKinney said. "But if we don't, it's all for naught. Hopefully we take our lumps now and when it really matters, we're better for it."
No. 16 Liberty Hill 79, Salado 48 - Playing without a key cog, the host Eagles had little answer for the relentless full-court pressure of District 25-3A rival Liberty Hill, who held Salado scoreless in a 12-0 first quarter.
"We were shell-shocked in the first quarter, obviously," Eagles coach Kenny Mann said.
"Liberty Hill does not defend you, they attack you. ... It's a hole different intensity and if you haven't seen it before, it's overwhelming."
Forcing their hosts into uncomfortable predicaments, the Panthers (12-1) scored the game's first 19 points before Salado's Austin Adams converted a fast-break layup with 6:12 to play in the first half. Adams led the Eagles (10-4) with 16 points.
Liberty Hill's crisp offense was led by a trio that combined for 68 points, including a game-high 29 by 6-foot-7 post Blake Danielak. Shane LaCaille and Stephen Graves added 20 and 19 points, respectively.