SAN ANTONIO - Ashlon Jackson carries herself as a winner.
That mentality for the Duke-commit is how she walked into the Alamodome on Thursday afternoon to lead her team against state-power Canyon, which was seeking its 20th state crown.
Jackson scored 27 points and grabbed six rebounds but in the end, Canyon was able to hit a pair of late three-pointers to seal a 56-55 victory over Hardin-Jefferson in the Class 4A State Championship.
"I went in thinking that we were going to win, I knew it wasn't going to be easy but I knew if I carried myself a certain way my team would follow," Jackson said after the team's first loss of the season. "I feel as though as they did but we just couldn't execute."
Hardin-Jefferson was making its eighth appearance in the UIL State Tournament and second in the last three seasons. The Lady Hawks finish the season with a 29-1 overall record.
It was a Hardin-Jefferson team that is rather young, only carrying three seniors - Makenna Henry, Rylee Wirth and Kenasha Semien - on the roster and one that impressed head coach Mike Fogo all year long.
"This is the hardest working group that I've been around in 20 years of doing this," he said. "It'll probably hit me a week from now but this one's been special.
"Anytime you can be around a group of girls like this that adds years to your career because it makes it fun. It made me kind of young in a sense."
VYPE Highlights 🎥: @HJladyhawks fall just short in Class 4A State Championship to Canyon, 56-55. Check out the Lady Hawks highlights from the game. #txhshoops #uilstate @TXHSGBB @HJISD @HJathletics @HjVolleyball @HJ_HawksFB @Ashlon3Jackson pic.twitter.com/7Q582Bnzln— VYPEsetx (@VYPEsetx) March 11, 2021
Jackson led the team with the 27-point performance but fellow junior Jalyn Wright and sophomore Molly Beavers both scored eight points and grabbed five boards. Freshman Kendall Sneed, one of two on the roster, scored six points in her first-ever state title game.
"It was a good experience," Sneed said. "This is not how I wanted to end my freshman year but I couldn't have asked for a better experience. I do have three more years to come back."
So, Hardin-Jefferson will now head into the offseason with a majority of its roster set to return in the 2021-2022 campaign. In it, the Lady Hawks will once again try and get back to the Alamodome and try and bring home the first state title since 1989.
With a sting of a one-point loss in this year's state title game fresh on their hearts, this Hardin-Jefferson team definitely won't need any kind of inspirational speech to get motivated for next year.
"They don't need the motivation," Fogo said.
Jackson added: "We've got to learn and we'll be back here next year for sure. With a gold medal."