An additional game allowed Kylee Elmore to complete her career as a winner.
Playing a rare game after districts to decide the conference race, the Lady Tigers rallied from a second half double-digit deficit and downed Thayer 76-70 Tuesday night inside Hiett Gymnasium.
Houston’s strong finish was spearheaded by Elmore, who had 15 critical points in the fourth quarter to seal the comeback victory.
“I’m awfully happy for her,” HHS coach Brent Kell said. “It’s a lot of fun to see her get going like that.”
The game, which was postponed by snow during the final week of the regular season, was rescheduled and later canceled. After both teams lost in districts, the game was rescheduled again, canceled due to a schedule conflict and rescheduled a final time. It had to be played to decide the South Central Association championship.
Houston’s win made Salem the outright SCA champs with a 6-1 conference mark. The Lady Tigers (19-10) and Thayer both finished second at 5-2 in the league.
“It was kind of odd to play this game,” Kell said. “I told our girls, ‘Hey, we went out with a win. You don’t have to tell people we didn’t win the state championship. Tell them we went out with a win and leave it at that.”
The game gave Elmore, who was moved to tears when she believed her career was over the previous week in the district tournament, one final chance to suit up in the Lady Tigers’ red and black.
It was a slow start for the four-year starter as she managed just four first-half points. But she finished strong.
Elmore drained a 3-pointer with 55 seconds left in the third quarter to give HHS its first lead since a 4-2 advantage. She scored 15 points down the stretch and finished with a team-best 24 points as Houston held on.
Kell said it was difficult to officially say goodbye to Elmore. He said he has rebounded thousands of shots she has taken through the years.
“I held her when she was a little bitty thing in my hands and watched her grow up to the young lady she is now,” he said. “I’m more proud of the person she has turned out to be. She’s just what you want your daughter to turn out to be –– and she’s like a daughter to me in a lot of ways.”
Joining Elmore in double figures was Sarah Kelley with 22, Abby Casper with 12 and Shelby Cremer with 10. Elmore and Casper hit three triples apiece and Jaydin Ramsey had two.
Thayer led by six at the half and extended its lead to double figures early in the third. But Houston responded with a quick 12-2 rally. The Lady Tigers pulled even when Elmore hit Casper streaking down the court for a layin that made it 43-all.
Beginning with Elmore’s trey from the left corner, Houston scored 15 of the first 19 points of the fourth quarter to take a nine-point lead.
Thayer –– behind a game-high 37 points from Jordan Alford –– pulled within two points at 66-64 with 1 minute, 31 seconds left. But on the next possession, Elmore drove to the basket, split two defenders and scored while being fouled.
Kell said the move was the play of the game.
“She has had a tremendous career. What more can you say?” he said. “I’m just proud of her.”
JUNIOR VARSITY: Houston outscored Thayer 18-4 in the fourth quarter to rally for a 36-32 win.
Sevanna Rowland had a team-best nine points for the JV Lady Tigers (13-2).
Thayer 19 17 12 22 – 70
Houston 9 21 16 30 – 76
THAYER (70) – Holly Grimes 14. Molly Honeycutt 4. Jordan Alford 37. Taylor Fuselier 2. Haley Earls 7. Keeley Rogers 6. FG 26. FT 12-15. F 24. (3-pointers: Grimes 4, Alford 2. Fouled out: Honeycutt, Earls, Rogers).
HOUSTON (76) – Kylee Elmore 24. Shelby Cremer 10. Abby Casper 12. Olivia Woosley 2. Sarah Kelley 22. Jaydin Ramsey 6. FG 25. FT 18-27. F 12. (3-pointers: Elmore 3, Casper 3, Ramsey 2. Fouled out: none).
Thayer 5 5 18 4 – 32
Houston 4 7 7 18 – 36
THAYER (32) – April Earls 12. Grayce Moore 12. Meghan King 4. Mikayla Allen 2. August Earls 2. FG 13. FT 2-5. F 21. (3-pointers: Moore 4. Fouled out: Mckale Ary, King).
HOUSTON (36) – Krista Scot 2. Jaycee Huff 4. Monica Hunter 2. Stephani Crewse 2. Sevanna Rowland 9. Carly Crawford 3. Emily Shea 8. Alyssa Hayes 6. FG 13. FT 10-22. F 15. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none).