By JUSTIN RAINS
TYLER — Much like in last year’s regional semifinal, Haily Jenkins and Martin’s Mill were too much for the Slocum girls’ basketball team in Saturday’s regional final.
Unlike a year ago, this year Martin’s Mill didn’t even give Slocum a chance to keep it close.
The state’s top-ranked team earned its eighth-straight trip to the state tournament here Saturday at Tyler Junior College’s Wagstaff Gym, using a 28-3 run in the first quarter to leave no doubt en route to a 70-34 victory.
The 28 points surrendered in the first quarter were almost more than Slocum gave up to previously unbeaten Martinsville in Friday’s regional semifinal game, which Slocum won 44-30.
The two teams traded baskets to open the game, but it was all Jenkins and Martin’s Mill from there.
The McNeese State-bound senior scored 20 points in the first half, outscoring Slocum on her own, 20-11.
Martin’s Mill had a plan to neutralize Slocum’s offense, and it worked almost to perfection.
Slocum’s first basket, a nice inside lay-up by Jordan Ives, was the team’s only two-point field goal made during the entire game.
Martin’s Mill also didn’t let Slocum ever feel comfortable from three-point range. On the game, Slocum was 8-for-35 (23 percent) from three-point range.
Also, Slocum’s leading scorer, Valerie Larkin, was completely neutralized by lockdown Martin’s Mill defender Taylor Munns, who held Larkin to 0-for-3 shooting on the night. Larkin finished with zero points.
Jenkins finished with a game-high 28 to go along with four rebounds, while sophomore Cheyenne Brown had a huge double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
Kelsee Webb led Slocum with 15 points, all coming on made three-pointers. Landry Lane hit two threes to finish with six, while Ives and senior Brice Sizemore finished with five.
The game was the final of Sizemore’s storied career. It’s the second year in a row that Slocum has made the regional tournament with only one senior on the roster.
The Lady Mustangs finish the season 32-3, while Martin’s Mill moves on to play at either 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. Thursday at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center.