Defending their Ranking

Saltillo smothers Gary in area round; re-match with Kennard next

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY, News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 17, 2008 - LONGVIEW - The Saltillo Lady Lions didn't play perfect defense for the first 13 1/2 minutes of their playoff game against the Gary Lady Bobcats on Friday. After all, Gary did score one point.

But by the time the Lady Bobcats made their first field goal - which came with 2:26 remaining in the second quarter - Saltillo already had ran out to a 20-point lead on the way to a 64-25 victory at Pine Tree High School.

The Lady Lions forced 33 turnovers, came up with 22 steals and limited Gary to 25 percent shooting from the field in the Class A, Div. II area round contest.

"We knew coming in that we could really pressure their guards and get after them," said Saltillo head coach Garry Davison. "I was really proud of my kids because we pressured the dog out of them."

Davison got a break-out performance from freshman point guard Brooke Lane, who scored 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, came up with five steals and dished out four assists in her first playoff game. Senior forward Winter Johnson added 12 points, five rebounds and six steals, and senior post Stephanie Methe had 15 points and five boards.

The Lady Lions need a player to fill the void left by All-Region guard Chloe Roberts, who graduated last year, and they got it from the 5-10 freshman.

"You couldn't have asked for anything better than for your young kid to step up and have a game like that, because now she believes she can do it," Davison said. "She's got that confidence. I've been telling her all year what a good player she is, and tonight proves it."

The Lady Lions started off slow, missing their first eight shots from the field, but Johnson got them going by hitting a 15-foot jumper from the left baseline, then coming back with a fall-away in the lane midway through the quarter as Saltillo took a 10-1 lead.

"I really thought offensively we came out a little nervous, a little jittery," Davison explained. "We didn't shoot the ball well early - I hate to say that, because we scored over 60 points - but, we didn't shoot the ball particularly well in the first half.

"But when you look up and for 13 minutes of the half they only have one point, you can get away with it. If you hold the other team to one point, you're going to win most games."

Saltillo senior Jessica Gilbreath, who recorded a game-high eight assists, knocked down a 3-pointer to open the second quarter, and then Johnson hit a tough shot in traffic under the basket to extend the lead to 15-1. By the time that Gary senior Krista Woodfin put back an offensive rebound for the Lady Bobcat's first field goal, Saltillo had a 23-1 lead.

Gary was led in scoring by Woodfin and guard Chelsea Ragan, who both had nine points. Woodfin also had nine rebounds.

Saltillo ended the half with a 26-7 advantage, then Lane took over in the third quarter, hitting all five of her field goal attempts, including a 3-pointer, to outscore Gary single-handedly, 12-10.

The Lady Lions made 42 percent of their shots (24-of-57), but it was their defense that set the tone for the game. Kimber Thompson came off the bench to record four steals to go with two points, Emily White added two steals and four assists, and Gilbreath had five rebounds and three steals.

Now, the No. 1-ranked Lady Lions likely will play Kennard, the No. 6 team the state. The two teams met last year in the regional quarterfinals, and Kennard escaped with a last-second win. The game is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday night at Kilgore College.

It will be a contest between the top two highest-ranked teams in the region.

"They're really good," Davison said. "Last year, I thought we had to play over our heads to beat them. This year, I don't. I think we're the better team, and hopefully Tuesday night we'll prove that."

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