The Houston Lady Tigers had their best offensive possession when it mattered most.
Tied 50-all with Mountain View-Liberty in the conference opener Monday night for both teams, HHS moved the ball around the perimeter of the Lady Eagles’ zone defense just enough times to find an opening. Abby Casper zipped a pass from the left wing to the right block into the hands of teammate Kaitlyn Root, who scored with 4.8 seconds remaining.
The Lady Tigers forced a turnover on the ensuing play and escaped with a 52-50 come-from-behind victory against Liberty.
The strong finish capped Houston’s rally from a 12-point second-half deficit.
“I’m very proud of our effort, especially in the fourth quarter,” Lady Tigers coach Jim Moore said. “We never gave up and battled back.”
Houston’s last possession was much different than many of the earlier ones. The Lady Tigers committed 31 turnovers against Liberty’s extended pressure.
After Moore called timeout, Houston ran about 30 seconds off the clock before Casper hit Root for the game-winning basket.
“We were all the sudden ball faking, stepping to the pass and had good ball movement,” Moore said. “We ended up getting the zone shifting and that’s what opened up the backside.”
Liberty still had plenty of time on the clock. But after a timeout, the Lady Tigers forced a turnover as Piper Francis, who scored 22 points, was called for a walk at midcourt as she was pressured by Root and Stephani Crewse.
The victory in the South Central Association opener snapped a two-game losing skid for Houston (2-4, 1-0 SCA) as part of a 1-4 start to the season.
“You saw some glimpses of the way we can guard,” Moore said. “It’s pretty exciting to think if we get things cleaned up and figured out, we’re going to be a tough out in March.”
Senior Jaydin Ramsey led the Lady Tigers offensively with a career-best 27 points, including 15 in the second half. Root added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Ramsey gave Houston its first lead since midway through the second quarter when she drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:28 remaining.
“She made some big shots,” Moore said. “Without the way she played tonight, we don’t win.”
HHS fell behind with sloppy passes –– many that led to transition baskets for Liberty. The Lady Eagles went on a 12-0 third-quarter run to take a 42-30 advantage for their biggest lead of the night.
The deficit was still eight points early in the fourth when the Lady Tigers made their move.
Ramsey had a steal and layup and Casper converted a layin –– on a steal and assist by Crewse –– as part of a 14-4 Houston run. The rally ended when Ramsey splashed in her second triple of the game to put HHS ahead 50-48.
A pair of Liberty free throws with 58 seconds left made it 58-all.
Root scored the game-winner, but Moore said many of the plays the junior forward made prior to the basket were just as important.
“I don’t know how many times she kept plays alive –– rebounding and tipping it,” he said. “I’ve told her several times that she still doesn’t understand how good she is. She can absolutely take over a game.”
JUNIOR VARSITY: Chloe Hunninghake hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points in the JV Lady Tigers’ 41-30 victory Monday against Liberty.
Liberty 11 19 12 8 –– 50
Houston 8 16 10 18 –– 52
HOUSTON (52) –– Kaitlyn Root 17. Abby Casper 4. Ally Morgan 1. Jaydin Ramsey 27. Emily Shea 1. Alyssa Hayes 2. FG 17. FT 16-26. F 23. (3-pointers: Ramsey 2. Fouled out: none.)
Liberty 6 7 5 12 –– 30
Houston 8 8 12 13 –– 41
HOUSTON (41) –– Sevanna Rowland 3. Madison Curtis 6. Kenzie Reber 4. Ally Morgan 2. Chloe Hunninghake 16. Carly Crawford 2. Kennedy Campbell 8. FG 16. FT 4-7. F 17. (3-pointers: Hunninghake 4, Rowland. Fouled out: none.)