On the strength of a stellar fourth quarter performance, the Houston High School girls basketball team defeated Aurora 45-40 in the first round of the 31st annual Lady Lion Invitational Tournament Tuesday night at Mansfield.
Seeded second in the eight-team event, the Lady Tigers trailed 24-18 at halftime and 33-29 at the end of the third period before finding their groove and outscoring the No. 7 Lady Houns 16-7 in the final 8 minutes.
The contest was Houston’s first in more than two weeks, as a Jan. 13 South Central Association conference game at Liberty was postponed due to COVID-19 and a Jan. 20 nonconference matchup at Dora was canceled due to a “scheduling conflict.” The Lady Tigers looked rusty in the first half, committing several turnovers and allowing several offensive rebounds while having trouble finding their shooting touch.
But after falling behind 26-18 early in the third quarter, Houston got rolling and cut the deficit 33-29 when junior forward Karlee Curtis sank a five-foot shot from the baseline with just under a minute left in the period.
The Lady Tigers then took control with a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter, holding the Lady Houns scoreless for more than half of the period.
Houston’s full-court defensive pressure paid big dividends, and caused a crucial turnover with the scored tied at 33.
Sophomore guard Angie Smith led the Lady Tigers in scoring with 14 points, while senior guard Hannah Dzurick had 12 and junior forward Olivia Crites and junior guard Aliyah Walker added 6 apiece.
Junior forward Ellie Creasey led Aurora in scoring with 15 points, while freshman guard Makena Hall had 9 and junior guard Payden Blevins added 7.
Assistant coach Dan Narancich guided Houston in the contest, as head coach Lindsey Vermillion was absent after recently having a surgical procedure.
The Lady Tigers (10-6, 1-1 SCA) will face third-seeded Springfield Catholic at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 27), after the Lady Irish beat No. 6 Mountain Grove 54-41 in the first round.
In other first round action, top-seeded Mansfield downed No. 8 Conway, 60-29, and No. 4 Dora got past No. 5 Forsyth, 60-56.
The tournament championship game is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 29).
To view a photo gallery from the Lady Tigers’ game against Auroroa (with the option to purchase photos), click here.