Swiftettes punch ticket back to state; fends off New Home
The Nazareth Swiftettes celebrate after beating New Home 37-30 in a Region I-1A final Saturday afternoon at the Texan Dome in Levelland. [Keirstyn Kelley/ Press Pass Sports]
In six straight appearances in the Region 1-1A finals, the odds have always seemed to be in the favor of tradition-rich Nazareth.
That was far from the case Saturday in the Swiftettes seventh straight showing at the regional final, when senior and arguably state’s top Class 1A player, Cambrie Hieman, came out of the game with a leg injury three minutes into the first quarter.
Finding themselves without Heiman the rest of the game, No. 1-ranked Nazareth found a way, gritting past New Home 37-30 at the Texan Dome in Levelland.
“We talked about keeping our composure,” Nazareth head coach Eric Schilling said. “Instead of looking around and asking ‘what do we do’, we looked at each other and we stepped up.”
Nazareth led through ought , but New Home never went away. The Lady Leopards, playing the school’s first ever regional final, were able to tie the game at 22 late in the third quarter.
With the momentum not in Nazareth’s favor, and yet to make a field goal seven minutes into the third, the Swiftettes found a way behind junior Merry Gerber. Gerber drilled an open 3-pointer at the top of the key, putting the Swiftettes up 25-22 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t shoot well Friday, so I knew I had to make that up today,” Gerber said. “Cambrie was out and we all had to find a way to step up.”
Gerber was clutch with 15 points with six rebounds in the victory.
Time and time again New Home had chances to take the lead, but Nazareth responded before finally closing the game out in the final three minutes.
The Swiftettes pulled thanks to an April Schmucker 3-point play, pushing the advantage to six with two minutes to go.
The Swiftettes used suffocating defense and precision from the free-throw line to close out the contest. New Home (30-5) was held to only one made field goal in the final three minutes.
“Being patient offensively was our goal going into the fourth,” Schilling said of his team in the final quarter. “We needed big stops and we grabbed the big rebounds and that was huge for us.”
Nazareth (29-8 overall) is headed to the UIL Class 1A state tournament for a seventh consecutive year, while trying to win their fourth consecutive state title, and prestigious 24th championship in program history.
Those 24 titles are a public school national record.
Nazareth 10 21 25 37
New Home 3 16 22 30
N— Merry Gerber 15, April Schmucker 11. NH— McKenzie Johnston 17. Records: Nazareth 29-8; New Home 30-5