Lady Cats keep playoff hopes alive with win over T-High
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Jan. 24, 2007 - In a do-or-die game on Tuesday, the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats did it.

Faced with having to beat Texas High to keep their realistic playoff hopes alive, the Lady Cats started strong and finished with a flurry to take a 51-43 victory at Wildcat Gym.

Sulphur Springs, 19-8 overall and winners of the last three, is now tied with Texas High (12-8) for third place in District 11-4A with 3-3 records.

The Lady Cats shot straight from the free throw line, making 19-of-20 in the game and 13-of-14 in the fourth quarter including 9-of-10 by sophomore guard Mackenzie Cross over the final 96 seconds.

Cross finished with 11 points, four rebounds and three assists, and junior post Starkeisha Wright added a double-double of 12 points and 10 boards. Junior Stephanie Conley contributed eight points and nine boards and guard Jessica Savage added eight points.

The victory avenged a 43-point loss the Lady Cats suffered to Texas High in the district opener. In that game, the Lady Tigers hit 52 percent of their shots from the field.

On Tuesday, the Lady Tigers never found their mark. They managed to shoot just 20 percent (14-of-71) including a meager 6 percent (2-of-31) from beyond the 3-point arc.

"They crushed us at their place, and they always come out to play in their home gym," said SSHS head coach Tina Carrillo. " We could have taken that loss and chalked it up to another loss and let it take the wind out of our sails, but we didn't do that.

"We fought back and we scratched and clawed for every bucket we had to have. That's typical of our team. When we need the baskets, somebody steps up - that's the how the last few games have gone."

The Lady Cats had as much as a 12-point lead in the first period and after falling behind briefly in the third period, held a 38-29 advantage with 3:52 left in the game. The Lady Cats started the fourth quarter with seven straight points on a 15-foot jumper by Wright, a 3-pointer from Savage and a pair of free throws by Cresha Hubbard after she gathered in an offensive rebound.

But, Texas High - which missed its first eight shots of the period - came back with a six-point run started by Miracle Thurston, who finished with 14 points, 16 rebounds and six steals. That cut the SSHS advantage to 38-34.

That's when Sulphur Springs' free throw accuracy started to pay off.

Following a fast break bucket by Conley to stop the Lady Tiger run, SSHS sophomore Kayle Askins made a pair of free throws with 2:27 remaining that put the Lady Cats back up by eight points.

Texas High scored five straight points, but Cross then hit 9-of-10 charity shots to close out the game and Conley came up with a pair of big defensive rebounds in the final 43 seconds.

"We've had games like this that we've given up because we haven't taken care of the ball, because we haven't handled the pressure, because we didn't make our free throws down the stretch," Carrillo related. "But, tonight wasn't one of those games. We had our focus, we were calm under pressure, we let go of our mistakes, and that's the sign of mental toughness."

The Lady Cats made sure they weren't going to fall victim to another blowout by coming out strong in the first period. They went on an 11-1 run over a four-minute span that ballooned a two-point lead into a 17-5 advantage.

The run started with senior Emily Bouyear hitting a 3-pointer and Conley sinking two quick baskets, one on a putback and another off an inbound pass from Bouyear, who had five points and three assists.

The run ended with freshman Stefanie Pruitt's 3-pointer staking SSHS to a 20-9 first-quarter advantage.

The momentum they managed to capture in the first period faded in the second when they were shut out on 0-for-7 shooting with seven turnovers. Texas High, meanwhile, pulled to within 20-18 at halftime.

However, Texas High's inaccuracy was still showing with an 0-for-14 mark on 3-point shots in the first half.

In the third quarter, the Lady Tigers took a 29-28 lead with 1:32 to play on a low post bucket by LaShae Harris, but Savage ripped a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left in the quarter to stake SSHS to a lead it would hold for the remainder of the game.

Both teams pulled down 41 rebounds, and Texas High committed just eight turnovers, compared to 24 for SSHS. But, Sulphur Springs shot almost twice the percentage from the field - 38 percent to 20 percent.

Notes: The Lady Cats travel to North Lamar on Friday to take on the second-place Pantherettes. ... Texas High freshman Skylar Fields scored eight points. ... The Lady Cats lost their first three district games, but have won their last three.

JUNIOR VARSITY

Texas High 48, SSHS 36

Sulphur Springs led by as many as six points in the first period, but Texas High took a second-quarter lead and remained ahead the remainder of the game.

Erika Garrett led the team with 11 points, six rebounds and three assists, and Stevie Moore added nine points and six boards. Jamie Askins put up six points and four boards and Talea Reynolds had four points and eight rebounds.

Alyssa Burney recorded three points and five boards, and Amy Highfield hit a 3-pointer.

FRESHMEN

Texas High 30, SSHS 21

Texas High held SSHS to five first-half points to take control of the game.

Ashanti Ivery and Linsey Fouse each had six points and three steals, and Brittany Wright added four points and five boards. Daci West led the team in rebounds with nine to go with three points, and Justine Hatley scored two points and had two steals.

Brittany Woolley had two rebounds and an assist and Kayla Phillips added six rebounds.

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