|Winnsboro loses top scorer, gains berth in regional final|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Feb. 27, 2004 -- COMMERCE -- Every girl on the Winnsboro bench generally sees action in each game. It appears they may be seeing a little bit more than normal.
Winnsboro used a pressure defense to hold down Crandall, 50-36, in the Class 3A, Region II semifinals Friday at Texas A&M-Commerce, but the victory didn't come without a price.
Senior 5-9 forward Katie Cook, who has led the team in scoring and rebounding for the last three seasons, suffered a knee injury early in the second period and her status for Saturday's regional championship game against Canton is uncertain.
Cook, who was ending her third straight All-State season, limped off the court near the end of the first quarter, came back out for the second period, but her knee buckled on the Lady Raiders' first possession. In the first quarter alone, she had nine points and four rebounds.
Whitney Huffman led the team in scoring with 18 points and came up with game-high five steals. She was the only player from either team in double-figure scoring, though Winnsboro junior Raegan Robinson chipped in seven points and five rebounds and freshman Megan Morton had six points and five boards.
The Lady Raiders said head coach Buddy Hawkins, who has guided teams to seven state tournaments, three state championships and 16 straight postseason appearances, told them at halftime they would overcome the injury to Cook.
"He just told us that we were a team and that our team didn't revolve around one player and that we had to pick up the slack, and I think we did," said Morton, who started the second half in Cook's absence and had two driving buckets in the pivotal third quarter. "Katie is our main rebounder, and when they had a big girl in there blocking out either Jenny (Woodle) or Allison (Nelson), Raegan and I had to get in there and pick up the slack."
Nelson finished the game with a team-high nine rebounds, while Woodle had four points and two boards.
The game turned for good in the Lady Raiders' favor in the third period. They took a 23-19 lead into halftime, then held Crandall without a field goal for more than 12 minutes, outscoring the Lady Pirates 13-5 during that span.
Robinson opened the third quarter scoring with a pair of free throws, Morton followed with a scooping drive, Nelson converted an offensive rebound into a pair of free throws, and then Morton drove in for another lay-up. When Whitney Huffman stole the ball and hit a lay-up and foul shot at the 3:42 mark, the Lady Raiders had a 34-21 lead.
Crandall cut the deficit to 36-29 on Amber Murphy's 3-pointer -- the Lady Pirates' only trey in 19 attempts -- but Huffman took a pass from her twin sister, Kristin, and came right back with a 3-pointer of her own to re-establish a 10-point advantage.
Kristin finished with four points and a game-high three assists. She credited the team's defense with the victory after they held Crandall to 20 percent shooting from the the field (10-of-49).
"We didn't let them score a whole lot. They're usually a 3-point shooting team, because I've played with a lot of those girls, and we didn't let them get many open threes," she said. "We were pressuring them pretty hard. That was our main goal because with Katie out, we had to make sure they didn't score."
Amber Murphy's nine points led Crandall as she hit 6-of-8 free throws. Stephan Schultz scored eight and led the team with nine boards.
Crandall outrebounded Winnsboro, 42-33, but the Lady Raiders made 21-of-25 free throws and forced 17 Crandall turnovers.
The regional championship game is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Fieldhouse at TAMU-C against Canton. The Eaglettes (29-5) beat Bonham, 54-45, in overtime behind 15 points and 11 rebounds from Kim Beverly and 14 points from Katy Baskin.