|Winnsboro ousted in state semifinal|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
March 4, 2005 - AUSTIN - The Winnsboro Lady Raiders were in an unusual position following the Class 3A state semifinal basketball game Thursday afternoon - nothing to do on Championship Saturday.
The Lady Raiders surprisingly let a 14-point fourth-quarter lead slip away and couldn't stop the bleeding in overtime, losing to the Cleveland Lady Indians, 69-63.
Winnsboro has been to the Final Four nine times in the last 15 years, but this was just the second time the Lady Raiders did not make it to the championship game. The last time it happened, this year's seniors were in kindergarten.
Instead, it's Cleveland who will advance to the state championship game against defending champion Canyon, which beat Wimberly, 69-33, in the other semifinal at Frank Erwin Center.
Winnsboro had control of the game midway through the fourth quarter, leading 52-40, with 5:30 to play, but Cleveland went on a 15-3 run behind eight points from Shante Perry, who finished with a game-high 26 points.
Cleveland then continued its momentum into overtime. It didn't help that freshman Sara Senn, who scored 17 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in her state tournament debut, fouled out in OT. Sophomore Megan
Morton scored 15 points (11 in the final period) for Winnsboro and had a game-high six assists, while senior Whitney Huffman added 13 points before also fouling out in overtime.
But, the Lady Raiders didn't shoot well, especially from beyond the 3-point arc and the free throw line. They hit just 3-of-20 from long range and only 18-of-31 from the free throw line.
That was especially hurtful in the fourth quarter and overtime, when they missed seven free throws and six 3-pointers.
"I thought we shot way too many threes," said Winnsboro head coach Buddy Hawkins, whose team finished the season with a 33-6 record. "I thought we probably should have made a few more passes to get some more lay-ups. When you have a lead like that, you need to use more time. Some of that is programming, because they're programmed to take open shots."
Hawkins liked the shot he got from senior Allison Nelson with less than 20 seconds to play in overtime. Nelson, who had a solid game with nine points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and three steals, took a 3-pointer from the corner to give Winnsboro a one-point lead, but it rattled out.
In the regional quarterfinals, Nelson hit a 3-pointer against Princeton to send the game into overtime, which the Lady Raiders eventually won.
"Sometimes when you play close games, the ball goes in and out," Hawkins said diplomatically. "But, we had control of it. We didn't make our free throws and our shot selection at the end wasn't very good. That's
enough to make a one-point difference. That's it in a nutshell.
"It probably wouldn't have gone into overtime if we would have had a better shot selection or hit our free throws."
The long shots led to long rebounds, which allowed the Lady Indians (36-3) the opportunity to get out in the open court and run. Cleveland scored 35 points in the final 12 minutes of play, compared to 34 over the first 24 minutes.
Winnsboro fell behind, 15-12, after one period, but fought back to take a 22-21 lead with 3:17 to play in the half on a Sara Senn lay-up off an assist from Morton. They would build on that lead until it reached 48-34 on a Nelson 3-pointer with 1:55 to go in the third period. They maintained that lead until things started unraveling in the final five minutes of regulation.
Cleveland, which received 15 points from Toni Simpson and nine points from Jekerria Carter, finished shooting 37.7 percent from the field, and made 5-of-20 3-pointers. Rebounds were fairly even - Winnsboro had
49 (junior Jenny Woodle had eight boards to go with eight points and Raegan Robinson added seven rebounds), while Cleveland had 47.
Morton did an excellent job of handling the ball against Clevelands full-court pressure as Winnsboro had just 17 turnovers.
But, it ultimately came down to shooting, and the Lady Raiders lost their touch in the end.
"They were wide open shots, its just that when youre up six or seven points with two or three minutes to go ... they give you three points for
reason: it's a harder shot," Hawkins said. "You'd be better served to go ahead and take the ball to the hole and draw a foul or possibly passing the shot up. Shooting is a choice."