North Hopkins falls to Elkhart Slocum, 56-49, in overtime

Feb. 22, 2006 - TYLER - Twenty-six and 42.

Those shooting percentages told the story for the North Hopkins Lady Panthers on Tuesday.

North Hopkins shot just 26.3 percent from the field and only 41.7 percent from the free throw line, and just flat couldn't overcome their lack of marksmanship in a 56-49 overtime loss to Elkhart Slocum in the Class A, Region III semifinal at John Tyler High School.

It was the third consecutive year that the Lady Panthers' playoff run has ended with an extra-period loss. Slocum (29-5) advances to the regional finals to play district rival Lovelady.

Just sending the game into overtime was quite a feat for NH. The Lady Panthers overcame a 14-point, third-quarter deficit to tie the game at 43-43 with 33 seconds left in regulation on a free throw by Sabra Thomas.

Thomas then came up with a front court steal with about 10 seconds left, and the Lady Panthers scrambled for a final shot, which senior post Katy Williams took from just inside the 3-point arc, but the shot hit the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded and fell away.

In overtime, Slocum's best player, guard Julie Bowman, took over by scoring 12 of the Lady Mustangs' 13 points and recording two steals.

Bowman finished with a game-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds and three steals. She was one of four Slocum players to score in double figures: Mandy O'Dell, Shonda Fletcher and Kat Johnson all scored 10 points each.

For North Hopkins, Williams had another double-double with 16 points, 19 rebounds and four steals. Ebbonye Johnson and Jessi Mannis both scored 15 points.

But, the Lady Panthers started shaky - falling behind by a 10-0 count midway through the first quarter - and couldn't shoot their way back into the game until the final minute of regulation.

"We were rushed in the first half," said NHHS head coach Tim Menke. "We had eight points at halftime and played about as bad as we could play in the first half. We were throwing some wild passes and making some really wild shots, even underneath.

"Everybody looked somewhat jittery. I think the gym being so loud got to us a bit in the first half."

The Lady Panthers (22-11) made just 3-of-21 shots from the field and only 1-of-7 free throws in the first half as Slocum took a 17-8 lead. Defensively, Johnson and 4-11 sophomore guard Cayla Newkirk limited the foul-plagued Bowman to just five first-half points.

"I was actually fairly pleased at halftime that we were only down nine points as poorly as we played," Menke said.

Bowman also didn't score in the third quarter as she sat out much of the period with her fourth foul. But, although the Lady Panthers finally got some offense going with a 3-pointer from Mannis and a pair of buckets from Johnson, they lost ground to Slocum, which took a 30-18 advantage into the fourth quarter.

"We talked about we needed to make a run, then we got their best player in foul trouble. She didn't play much in the third, but we lost ground," Menke said. "I thought that was a real key. To get their best player on the bench, we needed to make a run and get ahead in the third. Then, we really had a long mountain to climb in the fourth."

They climbed it, but couldn't quite get over the top.

The Lady Panthers started the fourth period with Mannis drilling a pair of 3-pointers from the right wing, Johnson scoring on a lay-up and Newkirk forcing a five-second call against Bowman.

After Newkirk made 1-of-2 free throws off an offensive rebound - one of five for the guard - the Lady Panthers had trimmed the Slocum lead to 32-27 with 5:29 to play.

The deficit stayed at four to five points until the Lady Panthers made one final surge in the final 92 seconds. Johnson hit four consecutive free throws to close the gap to 41-40, then Williams gave the Lady Panthers their first lead of the game (42-41) off with a putback bucket with 52 seconds to play.

The lead didn't last long as Johnson fouled out two seconds later and Bowman hit both of the free throws to put the Lady Mustangs back in front, 43-42.

NH's Thomas was then fouled and tied the game with one free throw to send the game into OT.

In the extra period, North Hopkins never led, but did tie the game a minute in on a Williams' putback, and knotted it one more time at 49-49 with 46 seconds remaining on four consecutive points via a driving bucket and a free throw by Williams and one charity shot by Mannis.

But, Bowman went end-to-end for a lay-up and then made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 20 seconds to ice the game.

"I thought just to get it to overtime was a heck of an accomplishment," Menke said. "I thought we waited a little long to start playing tonight. That was the main problem.

"If we would have gotten a half-way decent start, I think we would have been OK."

Notes: The game was the final one for seniors Katy Williams, Elizabeth McPherson and Nancy Castro. ... Before the playoff loss, the Lady Panthers had won 12 of their previous 14 games after starting the season 10-8.

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