By David Hinojosa STAFF WRITER
Finally, the breakthrough.
After going 0-5 in the regional finals, Judson advanced to the UIL state girls basketball tournament for the first time Saturday when the Rockets defeated Brandeis 63-56 in the Region IV-6A championship at Laredo Energy Arena.
“That wasn’t even something that was weighing on my mind,” Judson coach Triva Corrales said. “I knew we had never been to state. This team is so process-oriented. We take it huddle by huddle, possession by possession, practice by practice and game by game.”
The Rockets (28-6) will make their state debut against reigning state champion Duncanville (37-2) at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Alamodome.
Duncanville has claimed nine state championships, including three in the last four years. The Pantherettes finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ Class 6A poll.
Duncanville is No. 15 in the latest USA Today national rankings, the highest of any team from Texas. The new rankings will be released Tuesday.
“We’ve had a tough playoff draw the whole time,” said Corrales, whose team finished the regular season ranked No. 11 in the state. “It’s just another tough opponent we face. Of course, we respect them, but we are not going to fear them. We are going to play hard and play our style. We are here for a reason, just like they are.”
Judson advanced to the regional tournament for the first time in Corrales’ seven seasons there.
“Coach (Corrales) had faith in us from the beginning, before we even saw the potential in us,” Judson junior center Desiree Lewis said. “We had to trust the process and actually do as she said and trust in her because she is the reason we got here.”
Until Saturday, Judson last appeared in a regional final in 2006, losing against Warren 41-40 in Class 5A.
Judson had four other regional finals appearances. Two of them were close, including a 52-51 defeat against Victoria in 1991 and 30-27 loss against Corpus Christi Carroll in 2000.
Corrales, a 1993 Burbank graduate, played for Christina Camacho in high school. Later, Corrales was the head coach at her alma mater for six years before Camacho hired her as an assistant at Wagner when the school opened in 2005. She was on the staff when the Thunderbirds advanced to the state tournament in 2008.
Corrales left for Judson seven years ago.
“I had aspired to get to the state tournament, and I needed to step down as a head coach and become an assistant to see what it took to get there,” Corrales said. “(Camacho) showed me what it took. I took that and grinded it out every day for seven years, and it finally came true.”
The Rockets are looking to become the first area team to advance to