Texas coach leads team to state semis just hours after giving birth

There's dedication to a team, and then there's Amber Branson. The Lipan (Texas) High girls basketball coach led her team to a regional semifinal victory on Friday, then gave birth to her third child a few hours later. With the regional final scheduled for Saturday, it was assumed that the coach would miss her team's chance to advance to the state playoffs, but Branson had other ideas.

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Instead of taking a well-earned day off, Branson returned to the bench on Saturday, leading Lipan to a come-from-behind, 45-41 victory over Newcastle, sending the Indians to the state semifinals for the first time in eight years.

Perhaps it's no wonder that the Lipan girls basketball team motto in 2011 is "If it's easy, I don't want it."

"I was pretty tired," an incredibly understated Branson told the Associated Press of her return to the court just hours after giving birth. "I never felt like I couldn't do it. God's been good to me this week."

In fact, Branson's claim that her between-games birth was fated may have something to it. The coach reached a hospital in Abilene, where the regional finals were being played, about 9 p.m., shortly after her team's regional semi victory. By 10 p.m., daughter Leslie had already been born, a labor too quick to even allow for an epidural injection.

Yet, had Branson received that epidural shot, she might not have been able to recover in time to coach the game on Saturday, even though doing so did require her to leave Leslie behind in the hospital for a few hours.

"That was all part of God's plan. If I had the epidural, I might not have been able to make [the game]," Branson said.

"I would have taken [daughter Leslie] with me if I could have."

She wasn't able to, but by the time she came back to her newborn, Branson was also the coach of a regional champion basketball team, a squad which followed her shortly thereafter and took a photo with their coach and her new baby.

The Bransons -- including daughter Leslie -- were all at the state semifinals, where Lipan faced a stern test against Neches in the penultimate Class 1A Div. II game of the season. Regardless of the outcome of her team's game, Branson said something tells her Friday might not be the last time Leslie makes it to Austin, either.

"I guess she's making her own history," Branson said. "I hope we'll be back in 15 years to watch her play."

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