From left, Argyle’s Abby Williams, Rhyle McKinney and Brooklyn Carl celebrate winning the Class 4A state final against Sour Lake Hardin-Jefferson on Saturday in San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO — Legendary Canyon coach Joe Lombard, who coached against Argyle in a Class 4A Region I semifinal, said Rhyle McKinney is one of the five toughest players he’s ever game-planned for in a career that spans more than 40 years and boasts 19 state championships.

McKinney showed the rest of the state Saturday night what Lombard experienced last weekend, as the star junior thrived on the UIL’s biggest stage to record the biggest victory of her career.

McKinney scored 25 points, including 21 in the first half, to lead Argyle to a 49-41 victory over Sour Lake Hardin-Jefferson in the Class 4A state championship game at the Alamodome.

“She’s the best player down here, regardless of classification,” Argyle coach Chance Westmoreland said. “I don’t know another kid out here that’s put together the run she’s had this entire season, and especially in the playoffs. We played good teams and good coaches with good game plans, and she went out there and just played great.

“Today, shooting-wise, she was off. But she made her free throws, had a lot of big rebounds and played great defense. She moves the entire game. She’s just incredible — I wouldn’t trade her for anyone.”

McKinney was named the game’s MVP after an impressive performance that gave the Lady Eagles their fifth consecutive state championship.

Argyle became the third girls basketball team in UIL history to win five straight titles, joining the likes of Nazareth and Brock, where Westmoreland won two championships before taking over the Lady Eagles’ program in 2017.

“This one is probably one of my favorites,” McKinney said. “Our team is so close. The chemistry is amazing, the coaching staff worked so hard for us this year and we really wanted it because everyone has doubted us this year. It was pretty tough, but we were able to get it done.”

While Argyle walked away with yet another trophy, the Lady Eagles had to overcome an uncharacteristic slow start after struggling to get anything going early. Hardin-Jefferson jumped out to a 12-3 lead as Argyle went 1-for-8 from the field before McKinney started to catch fire.

The junior scored eight straight points to make it a one-point deficit for the Lady Eagles at the end of the first period, and Argyle went on to grab control while outscoring the Lady Hawks 16-11 in the second.

Hardin-Jefferson managed to contain McKinney and hold her to four points in the second half, but Brooklyn Carl and Bailey Timmons combined to score 13 over the final two quarters to help Argyle hold on for the win.

“When Rhyle was getting double-teamed, we knew we had to take some shots,” Carl said. “Bailey started scoring and I started scoring, and by other people scoring that forced them to cover us, so Rhyle could get some more scoring.”

The Lady Hawks pulled within four with less than three minutes to go in the third, but McKinney hit three free throws in the final 30 seconds to give Argyle some breathing room. The Lady Eagles went on a 7-0 run to start the fourth and handled the ball well in the final minutes to prevent a comeback.

Ashlon Jackson finished with 14 points and Tunisha Strong had 10 for Hardin-Jefferson, while Carl had 10 points and five rebounds and Timmons finished with nine points and six rebounds for Argyle.

Senior Kennedy Reaves grabbed 10 boards to lead a dominant rebounding effort for the Lady Eagles.

Argyle outrebounded Hardin-Jefferson 40-26 and held the Lady Hawks to six offensive rebounds, which was a key factor in the Lady Eagles claiming their 22nd straight win.

“We weren’t too pleased with giving up 20 offensive rebounds [Friday against Dallas Lincoln] — we haven’t done that all year,” Westmoreland said. “We talked about that, because Hardin-Jefferson had 16 offensive rebounds in their game against Burnet. They only had six [Saturday] and that was key, because they shot it well.

“It was just an all-around team effort, and that’s the way it’s been all year long.”

Argyle 49, Sour Lake Hardin-Jefferson 41

Argyle 11 16 10 12 — 49 Hardin-Jefferson 12 11 7 11 — 41

Argyle (32-7) — Kiley Lavelle 2, Rhyle McKinney 25, Brooklyn Carl 10, Abby Williams 3, Bailey Timmons 9.

Sour Lake Hardin-Jefferson (35-5) — Tunisha Strong 10, Rylee Wirth 3, Delberta Guillory-Smith 8, Ashlon Jackson 14, Asia Wheeler 2, Savannah Trahan 2, Makenna Henry 2.

BRADY KEANE can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @BradyKeane.

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