When it comes to girls basketball at Jones, it’s probably safe to say that three was the team’s lucky number this season.
The third-seeded Lady Longhorns captured the Class 3A title last week in Oklahoma City by beating top-seeded Washington, 39-33, to give the school its third straight state championship.
Jones is just the 10th school in state history to win three consecutive girls state basketball championships.
“I was very upfront and clear to them at the beginning of the year if they thought they could pull off the three-peat,” stated head coach Jenni Holbrook. “We talked about leaving a legacy for girls basketball history as one of the teams that had done it.”
The Lady Longhorns won their previous two title games by large margins. This year, they were pushed to the limit.
“This one was by far the hardest,” admitted Holbrook. “I felt like this year, every game we got everybody’s best shot. Everybody wants to knock off the state champ. Everybody has something to prove when they’re playing a team that’s won it the past two years.”
Dealing with the pressure of trying to make history would distract most teams. Jones not only dealt with the lofty expectations, they thrived on it.
“That’s why we focused on being the best that we could in the moment and the rest would take care of itself,” said Holbrook. “The accolades and the awards and titles take care of themselves if we take care of what we need to do today. We were best when we played together as a team and didn’t have a superstar. That was constantly stressed, and they bought into that big-time.”
Holbrook’s philosophy played out true to form in the state tournament when Jones had a different leading scorer in each game. Jaelen Maples scored 20 points in a quarterfinal win over Idabel. Point guard Boston Berry, a McNeese State commit, poured in 28 in a semifinal victory against Bethel. Zoe Tucker had a team-high 16 points for the Lady Longhorns in the title game.
“That’s what I think was special about our team was they weren’t selfish,” stated Holbrook. “They didn’t care about anything other than trying to win.”
If not for the unfortunate circumstances of COVID-19 in 2020, Jones could potentially be celebrating its fourth straight title. They were favored to win it all that year and were headed to “The Big House” in Oklahoma City to play in their first-ever state tournament game when they received word that the tournament had been canceled.
“The what ifs are what keep you up at night,” said Holbrook with a chuckle. “We had a really special team that year. I think that propelled us the next year to want it even more. Those girls that are seniors now were freshmen then. They got to experience that feeling of being the first to make it to the state tournament.”
Along with three state titles, seniors Berry, Maples, Tucker and Audrey Bain finished their prep careers without ever losing a playoff game.
“They knew exactly where they stood and what it would take in order to do that,” explained Holbrook. “I think they proved that anything is possible, even in a town that’s a non-traditional girls basketball school. They really left their mark, that’s for sure.”