|Lady Cats drop district opener to Texas High|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Jan. 7, 2006 - For 25 minutes Friday night, the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats showed they can play with the best teams in the district. But, for a seven-minute stretch in the second half, the Texas High Lady Tigers proved why they are one of the favorites.
Texas High outscored the Lady Cats, 22-7, during a seven-minute run spanning the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth to take a 65-52 victory in the District 12-4A opener at Wildcat Gym.
Junior guard Miracle Thurston scored 12 of the team's 22 points during that stretch and finished with a game-high 28 points to go with eight rebounds.
SSHS (8-13) countered with the inside presence of 5-10 senior Bridgette Nash, who finished with 23 points and six rebounds.
Texas High (10-10 overall) is considered a district favorite along with North Lamar, and the Lady Cats played them evenly for the first 2 1/2 quarters. When Nash took an entry pass from Stephanie Connally and scored on a turn-around jumper with 3:55 to play in the third quarter, it tied the game at 38-38.
But, Thurston scored six straight points on two putbacks and a fast break bucket before Nash broke the string with another low-post basket. Texas High, though, scored the final six points of the third quarter and hit a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to stake the Lady Tigers to a 60-45 lead.
"I think we got tired and it showed on defense," said SSHS head coach Tina Carrillo, who has just eight players on varsity. "We gave up some uncontested threes, but overall I thought we did a good job of playing defense."
Carrillo knew going into the game that pulling out a victory over one of the favorites would be a tall order since the Lady Cats went 0-10 last year in 12-4A. But, she also has seen her team win four of its previous five games.
"Overall, I'm proud of this game. I know we're going to look up and that team will be one of the top two in the district. I'm not down at all," she said. "In the post game talk, I'm trying to lift them up because they really believe they can win now.
"Early in the season, when we'd lose they'd be laughing in the back of the bus. Now, I walk in after the game and they're all teared up - they're in tears - because we lost this game. They played with their hearts and played with fire."
The Lady Cats led early in the game, taking a 14-12 lead with two minutes to play in the first quarter on a 3-pointer from freshman McKenzie Cross, and trailing just 18-16 at the end of the first period. Cross finished with seven points and a team-high three steals and five assists.
The second quarter was also a back-and-forth contest. Texas High took as much as an eight-point lead at 29-21 on a 3-pointer from Victoria Stewart with 4:15 to play. Then things got excited.
Thurston was called for her second foul on the Lady Cats' next possession, then was hit with a technical for her unsportsmanlike reaction. Before SSHS senior Whitney Jordan could shoot the technical free throws, the officials had an unruly Texas High fan removed from the gym.
Jordan hit both free throws as part of her six points in the game, and the Lady Cats finished the half on a 7-2 run to draw to within 31-28 at the break.
The Lady Cats had trouble, especially in the first half, of trying to lob the ball into the post against Texas High's tall, athletic front line. SSHS had 33 turnovers and T-High came away with 22 steals.
"We went into the half three under, then we had a little lapse there in the third quarter," Carrillo said. "I think they did a good job in the first half pressuring us in their man defense. in the second half, we were able to get it inside to Bridgette. There for awhile, we were able to stay in the game, then we had to take Bridgette out when she got into foul trouble."
Sophomore post Starkeisha Wright added nine points, junior guard Emily Bouyear contributed a team-high seven rebounds to go with two points and two steals, and senior guard Kaytlin Black scored two points and dished out three assists while drawing the unenviable task of guarding Thurston.
"Kaytlin Black did a wonderful job of playing defense on Miracle, but the girl can just shoot with someone in her face," Carrillo said. "When you double team her, you're going to foul her and put her on the free throw line. She showed why she's probably the best offensive player in the district."
Now, the Lady Cats must go to North Lamar on Tuesday to face the defending district champions.
"We knew going in that we were going to face the better two teams in district right from the start," Carrillo explained. "Our thing is, there are three spots going to the playoffs."
Texas High 47, SSHS 33
The Lady Cats got nine points, 16 rebounds and seven steals from Tasha Lee, but fell behind early and couldn't catch up.
Texas High took a 15-2 lead in the first quarter before the Lady Cats started making up ground.
Brittany Scott and Stevie Moore each scored eight points for the Lady Cats, Erika Garrett added five, Jennifer Mitchell contributed two points and four rebounds, Janelle Davis had one point and seven rebounds, and Alyssa Burney recorded five rebounds and two steals.
Texas High 31, SSHS 18
Kayle Askins bucketed 10 points for the SSHS, but the freshmen team fell behind early, also.
Texas High took a 9-2 lead after one period and 19-8 after two.
Scoring two points each for SSHS were Jaime Askins, Molly Smith, Nesha Miles and Rachel Johnson.