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Lady Lions making history

By Gabriel D. Brooks
May 29, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Henderson had already made program history before it clinched a Class 3A state softball semifinal spot in Saturday's Game 3 win against Paris North Lamar. That helps explain coach Julie Murry's belief that her team is not satisfied by simply getting to the final four.

"If they were (satisfied) I feel like we could've been just satisfied with being where we are right now," Murry said shortly after the Lady Lions knocked out North Lamar with a 4-2 Game 3 win Saturday in Grand Saline. "We had already made history as far as Henderson is concerned."

Henderson (29-8) hopes to continue making history as it faces Liberty Hill (27-8) in Thursday's noon semifinal at the University of Texas' McCombs Field in Austin. Lufkin Hudson (34-5) and West (29-9) play at 9 a.m. in the other semifinal, and the two winners play in Saturday's 10 a.m. state championship game.

Henderson's Tiarra Davis, who was the Lady Lions' pitcher of record in all three games of the 3A Region II championship series, also balked at the notion that Henderson could be content with what it has already achieved.

"I think since we won (the Region II championship) we're just going to go and win it all," said the left-handed junior leadoff hitter.

Considering Henderson's road to Austin, Davis' opinion certainly isn't out of line. Henderson swept Celina 6-4, 7-5 in the Region II semifinals to avenge Celina's 2011 regional semifinal sweep of the Lady Lions, which helped Celina win the state championship. Henderson's 2-1 series victory against North Lamar gives the Lady Lions the distinction of having beaten each of the past two 3A state champions, since the Pantherettes hoisted the trophy in 2010. That same season, Henderson concluded its Class 4A membership by losing in the second round to Waco Midway, which eventually won the Class 4A state championship.

Having her past two seasons ended by state champions played a significant role in Murry choosing "Finish strong" as her team's 2012 motto.

"We were sick of that," said Murry of losing to eventual state champions. "We wanted to be that team. We felt like we had seen the best and we wanted to be the best. It's not over, but we're certainly continuing to take steps in that direction."

Murry and her players said that direction is where the Lady Lions have pointed themselves since the beginning of the season.

"We had a dream to go to state at the beginning (of the season). It was our goal," said catcher Tessa Thomas, who delivered three doubles in Games 2 and 3 against North Lamar. "It's awesome to be with such a great group of girls. We all love each other and we're really good friends, everybody."

Davis believes Henderson's Game 2 loss to North Lamar, which tied the regional championship series with a 6-1 victory, served the Lady Lions well, saying it "put us in our place" and showed them they "are beatable … if we don't want it enough."

But if Davis and Thomas are any indication - as well as Murry's confidence in her players - Henderson appears poised to make good on its season-long "Finish strong" mantra after eliminating perennial powers Celina and North Lamar.

"We had set the goal to win state because we thought we were capable of it," Davis said, "but we never dreamed of actually doing it."

Two more wins and the Lady Lions won't have to dream.

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