If you're going to match your best game of the season, especially as a senior, a do-or-die state semifinal game is a good place to do so.
Such was the case for L.C. Bird inside force Tyra Shelton, who more than matched her usual rebounding performance with a team-high 18 points as the Skyhawks advanced to their first girls basketball state championship game in school history, 55-48 over 5A North Region champion Thomas Edison.
The Skyhawks (22-6) soared to an early first half lead thanks to the offense of Shelton, rather than recently anointed Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of The Year Taja Cole, scoring 12 of her 18 points as L.C. Bird dominated the scoreboard in the first sixteen minutes.
"It could be my last game," Shelton opined. "I wasn't about to lose, we weren't going to come all this way for nothing."
Edison head coach Dianne Lewis believed her team got off slowly, possibly to nerves, and she made it a point to try to get her Eagles to within ten points by halftime. They did, cutting the margin to a manageable nine at 29-20.
Cole stepped in with ten of her 16 points in the second half, one of two Skyhawks to play all 32 minutes, along with KeKe Williams, whose ten points were big, but nothing was bigger than her rebound on Edison's final possession, when they were desperately trying to complete a comeback that lasted most of the second half, even without leading scorer Jada Graves, who had fouled out earlier in the fourth.
It was a game a few weeks, and maybe even a season, in the making for Shelton.
"I've been asking the girls for someone to step up and help Taja offensively," said L.C. Bird head coach Chevette Waller. "Whatever it is she's (Tyra) doing, I hope she continues."
As for Tyra herself, the motivation was simple.
"It's the postseason," Shelton said. "Nothing was planned; I just had to go out and play my game."
Shelton also noted her extreme disappointment in L.C. Bird's 64-43 loss in the 5A South Region final to Princess Anne, their opponent in Saturday's 3:45 State Final. When asked about how she would handle Princess Anne differently, Cole divulged no secrets.
"We've made adjustments," Cole said confidently. "I think we're going to show just how our coaches have adjusted come tomorrow, and we won't let it happen again."
Tickets for the championship are $10 and available at the Siegel Center box office. One ticket is good for the full morning/afternoon session, which includes the Midlothian/Monacan 4A Girls State Final at 11:45am.