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“The game just went two seconds too long”

Clark’s Huff hits 3-pointer to defeat Cowgirls in state semifinals

March 4, 2023


Srihari Yechangunja

The Coppell girls basketball team receives a trophy and medals for being Class 6A semifinalists at Alamodome at San Antonio on Friday. Coppell narrowly fell to Northside Clark, 49-48, in the Class 6A semifinals on a last second 3-pointer by Clark’s Natalie Huff.

SAN ANTONIO – Nearly 300 miles from its home court, the 2022-23 Coppell girls basketball team unknowingly plays their last game together after six months of success, dedication and perseverance. 

On Friday night, the Cowgirls’ momentous season came to a close. Coppell fell to Northside Clark, 49-48, in the Class 6A semifinals at Alamodome in San Antonio. 

Clark junior guard Natalie Huff’s clutch 3-pointer with two seconds remaining sent the Cougars to tonight’s state championship game against two-time defending champion DeSoto. Coppell ends its best season in school history 38-4.

Huff’s shot concluded a thrilling, albeit heartbreaking finish for Coppell, game.

“The game just went two seconds too long,” Coppell girls basketball coach Ryan Murphy said. 

The bright lights of the $186 million arena beam down on the Cowgirls, as Coppell senior guard Jules LaMendola battles to call out plays over the deafening audience. 

It’s the third quarter and both teams are tied for the ninth time of the night, 32-32, 1:53 ticking down on the clock. Coppell senior guard Waverly Hassman dishes out an assist to LaMendola, who drives to the basket, leading the Cowgirls to take control of the game once again. 

Coppell returns to the court for the fourth quarter, fans watching with bated breath. 

Coppell senior guard Waverly Hassman evades Northside Clark defenders at Alamodome at San Antonio on Friday. Coppell narrowly fell to Northside Clark, 49-48, in the Class 6A semifinals on a last second 3-pointer by Clark’s Natalie Huff. (Srihari Yechangunja)

Hassman hands another assist to sophomore guard Landry Sherrer, who receives the ball and jumps into the air. The shot goes in, and the Coppell fans boom throughout the dome, demanding to be heard by the opposing team and stands. 

Less than a minute later, Clark junior Center Arianna Roberson catches a fast break in the paint, scoring a layup and shrinking Coppell’s lead to 36-34. 

After a series of missed shots and fouls, Roberson scores again, tying the score at 36, with 3:37 counting down on the clock. 

The Cowgirls refuse to accept another tied score, as LaMendola lobs the ball out to Coppell senior Allyssa Potter who sinks a 3-pointer, Coppell extending their lead to 39-36.

With 1:45 remaining in the game, Roberson draws a foul from Spiller. Roberson steps up to the free throw line, tuning out the thunderous noise from the Cowgirls faithful. Roberson makes both shots, diminishing Coppell’s lead to 41-38. 

Spiller immediately gains back those points, scoring a layup off another assist from LaMendola, Coppell ahead, 43-38, 1:26 gleaming on the scoreboards surrounding the court. 

It’s the last minute of the game, and everything is moving at the speed of light, the ball darting across the court, players cutting in and out of the lanes. But one thing is certain: Coppell is ahead. 

The Coppell girls basketball team supports its teammates from the bench at Alamodome at San Antonio on Friday. Coppell narrowly fell to Northside Clark, 49-48, in the Class 6A semifinals on a last second 3-pointer by Clark’s Natalie Huff. (Srihari Yechangunja)

Coppell senior guard Macey Mercer stands at the free throw line, time frozen around her. Mercer looks up to the basket and watches both of her shots go in, Coppell once again holding its five-point lead over Clark. 

Huff passes the ball to her teammate, senior guard Ramsey Robledo. Robledo leaps, the ball slipping off her fingers and cutting through the air as it passes through the net. 

With 30 seconds left in the game, Mercer draws a foul from Robedo and secures both points from her free throws. Coppell fans rock the dome in celebration, their collected voices beginning to drown out those from the Cougars’ supporters.

Nineteen seconds. The clock pauses as Roberson dishes the ball to junior forward/center Kamryn Griffin who weaves between the Cowgirls’ defense and scores, pulling Clark within two points of Coppell.

Fifteen seconds. Griffin draws a foul from LaMendola and scores, Coppell now only leading by one.

Thirteen seconds. Coppell has possession and the whistle blows. A foul is called on Huff as Mercer lines up for her two shots. Mercer connects with the basket and makes the first shot, but misses the second, the Cowgirls now leading by two points. 

Play resumes and it’s Clark’s possession after Roberson snatches the rebound from Mercer’s missed shot. The Cowgirls sprint back on defense, attempting to block any and all shots.

Huff dribbles down the court with the ball, stopping at the 3-point line, Mercer standing between her and the basket. Mercer raises her hands, attempting to block Huff’s line of sight, but Huff swerves and shoots. Hassman closes in on her as the ball leaves Huff’s fingertips, but it’s too late. The shot goes in with 1.4 seconds remaining. 

The time quickly expires, and the scoreboard buzzes as Coppell girls basketball coach Ryan Murphy raises his arms in protest. 

Clark is already celebrating: the players jumping up and down together, their crowd awestruck and roaring, while the Coppell crowd is speechless, everyone in disbelief of the play.

Coppell senior Jules LaMendola reacts to the game-winning shot from Northside Clark 1.4 seconds before the end of the game at Alamodome at San Antonio on Friday. Coppell narrowly fell to Northside Clark, 49-48, in the Class 6A semifinals on a last second 3-pointer by Clark’s Natalie Huff. (Srihari Yechangunja)

The officials blow the whistle and deliberate, everyone waiting in anticipation for the verdict. 

The play is reviewed and it is determined that Murphy called a 30-second timeout as soon as the ball passed through the net. Coppell is given back one second.

The Cowgirls run the play from the opposite end of their basket, as they desperately lob the ball to Spiller for a desperation shot. Spiller winds up from half-court and leaps forward, but misses. 

The buzzer echoes throughout the arena and Clark continues celebrating as LaMendola falls to her knees on the court after giving her all to the game.

“[Huff’s] shot is not the reason why we lost that game,” LaMendola said. “At the end of the day, I’m just proud to be here. I’m proud of my team [and] I think we should keep our heads high.”

The Cowgirls slowly collect themselves as they prepare for the award ceremony, the last time they will step on the court together this year. 

“I’m proud of my team,” LaMendola said. “Four years ago, none of this was even in our minds. Without any one of those 13 girls on our roster, we wouldn’t be here.” 

Tears well in each player’s eyes as one by one, the Cowgirls receive their medals and stand before the crowd. Their stands rise to their feet, tears unable to be held back from them as well. 

“The girls have completely changed the culture of Coppell girls basketball,” Murphy said. “Four years ago, going to state was not something that anyone ever would have thought about.”

The bittersweet night comes to a close, the final curtain falling on the Cowgirls and their season, that is, until they take the court again next year. 

Follow Ava (@avakjohnson4) and @SidekickSports on Twitter.

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    Anushree DeMar 6, 2023 at 10:47 am

    THIS. WAS. BEAUTIFUL. I am stunned by the detail, emotions and storytelling reporting that went into this piece. Beautiful job, Ava! And lovely pictures Srihari!