The Burnet High School girls basketball team’s season ended with a 64-39 loss to Sour Lake Hardin Jefferson in the Class 4A Region III final Feb. 26 after the Lady Dawgs defeated Huffman Hargrave 45-40 in a regional semifinal on Feb. 25 in Lufkin.
But the ending isn’t what head coach Rick Gates and the Lady Dawgs will remember about the 2021-22 season. Instead, they’ll treasure how they earned their 19-13 overall record and went 8-0 during the District 19-4A campaign to be the district champions en route to constructing a 13-game winning streak during the most crucial part of the season — in January and February.
“I think their resiliency and grit,” Gates said of how he’ll remember this team. “We played a really tough non-district schedule with a lot of teams — Boerne, Fredericksburg, Mason and a bunch of Class 5As and 6As. Added to that was the injury to one of our starters, Maesyn Gay, and (the pre-district season) was a struggle. And as we went into district, we got her back. She was working her way to playing shape, and things started working for us and clicking for us.”
The Lady Dawgs’ resiliency and grit were on full display throughout the regional tournament. Against Huffman Hargrave (25-5, 10-2 District 21-4A runners-up), Burnet led 22-17 at the half. But the Lady Falcons took a 32-27 advantage headed into the final period. The Lady Dawgs made the right decisions to gut out a victory and eliminate a stubborn Huffman Hargrave team to advance to the regional final.
Burnet showed that same resolve against Hardin Jefferson (33-4, 12-0 District 21-4A champions) in keeping the contest close throughout the first half. The Lady Hawks led 15-9 after the opening stanza and built a 10-point lead in the second period. But the Lady Dawgs didn’t blink and closed to within a point. Hardin Jefferson, which is led by Duke University signee Ashlon Jackson, hit a 3-pointer right before the half for a 34-30 lead that went to 52-32 by the end of the third quarter.
Gates noted the Lady Hawks’ depth was the key difference.
“They brought players off the bench, and there wasn’t much drop-off,” he said. “Their level of play was very high. I stuck with our starters and played (reserves) here and there. Their depth caught up to us. We ran out of gas.”
Still, few teams make these types of runs without having players who already know what it takes, and the Lady Dawgs had that in seniors Sydne Massoletti and Karley Denton. The two were on the 2018-19 Burnet playoff roster that lost to Hardin Jefferson 49-44 in a Class 4A state semifinal.
“We brought them up as freshmen,” Gates said. “I wanted them to experience the playoff atmosphere. Their leadership (in 2021-22) was huge. They got to experience that level of success (four years ago). They got to watch those older kids and what they did day in and day out. It stuck with them. They made that commitment to do everything they could in the offseason and pre-season to lead this team as far as they could.”
And while the program will say good-bye to Massoletti, Denton and seniors Gracie McCormick, Madelynne Jones and Shelby Wagner, Gates is more than optimistic about the future. Returners include juniors Abi Aguillon, Kendall Bible, Grace Gates, Christina Graves, Danielle Oakley; sophomores MaeSyn Gay, Marley McPherson and Zaria Solis; and freshman Sydney Lough.
Massoletti was named the District 19-4A Offensive Most Valuable Player. Gates, Gay and Solis were named first team all-district, while Denton and Wagner were named to the second team, and Aguillon was named honorable mention.
“We’re hoping some of those players who got playing time will contribute next year,” Gates said. “It always hurts to lose. We would have liked to have won that regional final. We gave Hardin Jefferson all we had.”