HHS freshman forward Gracyn McNiell makes a move to the basket during the Lady Tigers' loss to Thayer in an SCA game Thursday in the New Gym. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Despite leading 22-21 at halftime, the Houston High School girls basketball team was defeated 60-42 by Thayer in a South Central Association conference game Thursday night in Houston’s New Gym.

As has been the case in several outings this season, the Lady Tigers had a rough time in the third quarter, being outscored 21-9 by the visiting Lady Bobcats.

Thayer never led in the first half, but went ahead 24-22 at the outset of the second half on a 3-pointer by senior guard Katherine Pounders. Houston quickly answered and regained the lead on a trey by senior guard Aliyah Walker, but the visitors were back on top moments later and never trailed again.

The Lady Bobcats sank seven 3-pointers in the contest, but scored numerous buckets from close range thanks to a lethal combination of dribble drives and crisp interior passes. Meanwhile, the Lady Tigers often had difficulty scoring against Thayer’s 2-3 zone matchup defense and converted only 16 field goals in the game.

HHS senior Olivia Crites eyes the basket while being closely guarded by Thayer sophomore Hadley Meyer during the first quarter.

Senior forward Olivia Crites scored 10 points in the first half and led Houston in scoring in the contest with 14 points, while Walker knocked down three shots from behind the arc and finished with 11. Senior guard Makenzi Arthur scored 8 points for the Lady Tigers, while junior guard Angie Smith had 4, freshman forward Gracyn McNiell had 3 and sophomore forward Sophia Crites added 2.

Senior guard Haley Larsen scored a game-high 21 points for Thayer, while sophomore guard Abby Bowers had 14 and Pounders finished with 12.

The two teams will meet again Monday in the first round of the 49th annual Thayer Winter Classic tournament.

The Lady Tigers (9-6, 1-2 SCA) are seeded seventh in the 7-team event, while the host Lady Bobcats (10-5, 3-0 SCA) are seeded second. Other teams in the field include No. 1 Mammoth Spring (Ark.), No. 3 Cedar Ridge (Ark.), No. 4 Willow Springs, No. 5 Van Buren and No. 6 Liberty.

The tournament championship game is set for Thursday (Jan. 19).

Houston will compete in a tournament again the following week at Mansfield.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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