In a contest that featured intense play on the floor for four quarters and high level crowd enthusiasm, the Houston High School girls basketball team was defeated Thursday night in a South Central Association game at Cabool, 52-48.
After the two teams took turns making runs and exchanging blows for the balance of the affair, the outcome wasn’t determined until the final seconds.
“It was an awesome high school basketball game with an incredible atmosphere,” said HHS head coach Jim Moore.
Houston took an early 8-3 lead after freshman guard Aliyah Walker and sophomore guard Hannah Dzurick both hit 3-pointers. But the Lady Bulldogs tied the score at 10-all when sophomore forward Hailey Shannon nailed a trey with 2:15 left in the first quarter.
Cabool then led 14-10 when senior guard Kaitlynn Ellison sank a running shot from the baseline with 1 second left in the opening period.
The second quarter saw the two teams trade momentum and baskets, and the host Lady Bulldogs took a 22-19 advantage into the break.
The Lady Tigers then opened the second half with a 9-0 run, started by a 5-foot jumper and a triple by Dzurick and finished by a long 2-pointer from the corner by Walker and a pair of free throws by junior forward Riley Sheets.
But Cabool responded as Ellison went on her own personal run by scoring 8 unanswered points to close out the third quarter (including three running bank shots from the lane and a couple of foul shots) to put the Lady Bulldogs back on top at 34-32.
Ellison then opened the final period with another running basket from the lane, but Houston refused to go away and led 39-38 with 5:05 to go after junior guard Jaden Still drained a 3-pointer and freshman forward Karlee Curtis sank a 3-foot shot from the lane.
The lead changed hands several times down the stretch, and the score was tied at 46-all after Stell converted a short shot with 1:30 left.
Cabool inched ahead again with time running down, but the Lady Tigers hung in and trailed 50-48 after Dzurick sank a foul shot with 9 seconds remaining. But the Lady Bulldogs secured the win after Ellison was fouled on the following inbounds play and converted 2 free throws.
Dzurick led Houston in scoring in the contest with 16 points, while Stell had 10. Walker finished with 7 points, while Scheets had 6 and Curtis added 5.
Ellison finished with a game-high 28 points, including 22 in the second half. The active 5-6 guard sank 10-of-11 free throws in the contest and went 10-for-10 from the line after the break.
Shannon finished with 9 points for Cabool, while junior Abigail Heurman added 8.
“I was very pleased with how we moved the ball and shared the ball,” Moore said. “We played unselfish, we played hard and played resilient. We rebounded, we guarded and we executed. The ball didn’t fall quite enough to get the win, but it will if we continue to play like we did in this game.”
As has been the case a few times of late, the Lady Tigers hindered their cause at the charity stripe, going only 14-for-26. Houston also committed several turnovers at key moments.
“We have to hit a few more free throws,” Moore said. “And we have to take care of the ball just a little bit better and have to continue to improve on the defensive end. But those things are all correctable and with the team attitude the way it is right now, it’s only a matter of time before we become a really good basketball team.”
Houston had three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup. Despite the loss, Moore saw the game as a step in the right direction for his youthful squad.
“I’m extremely proud of our team,” he said. “We came up a little short on the scoreboard, but I feel like we win the game because of the strides that were made by our girls toward becoming a complete team. Our locker room is closer than ever right now, and I believe we are getting ready to go to a different level on the floor.”
As the classic battle unfolded, fans from both sides made their presence known big-time. The student sections offered up a raucous contribution, exchanging good-natured chants and barbs and basically going berserk at every opportunity.
Houston’s bunch was in top form, with face paint and funny vocals galore.
“I want to send a shout-out to our student section and how well they cheered and supported us last night,” Moore said. “Our entire crowd was great and our team would like them to know we appreciate them and we feed off of their excitement. Cabool fans were just as boisterous which made for a playoff type atmosphere.”
LIBERTY HANDLES HOUSTON
On Monday in Mountain View, Houston lost 72-43 in an SCA tilt against Liberty.
The Lady Tigers had difficulty dealing with Lady Eagles post players Abby Woolsey, Kaitlyn King and Lexi Shumpert, as Woolsey scored 24 points, King had 20 and Shumpert added 14. The trio dominated the boards on both ends of the floor and accounted for all of the Lady Eagles’ 38 points in the first half.
“We got destroyed in the boards and had a very tough time stopping their post play,” Moore said.
Dzurick and Stell had 14 points apiece in the game. Stell drilled three treys in the third quarter and scored 11 points in the period.
Next up for the Lady Tigers (4-9, 0-3 SCA) is a non-conference game Thursday (Jan. 23) at Dora.
Next week, Houston will be in the eight-team field at the 30th annual Lady Lion Invitational at Mansfield. The Lady Tigers are seeded sixth and will face No. 3 Ava in a first round game on Tuesday (Jan. 28).