Players in the HHS girls basketball program gather around the Lady Lion Invitational third-place trophy last Saturday. Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

Despite being seeded fifth in the 8-team field, the Houston High School girls basketball team took home the third-place trophy from last week’s 32nd annual Lady Lion Invitational tournament at Mansfield.

The Lady Tigers began the event by beating No. 4 Springfield Catholic 55-51 in a first round game on Monday, but then fell 69-51 to top-seeded Mansfield in a semifinal contest on Thursday. Houston then bounced back with 71-62 victory over No. 3 Forsyth in the tournament’s third-place game on Saturday.

“Coming in as the 5-seed and leaving with third is a good confidence booster,” said HHS head coach Lindsey Vermillion. “I’m very proud of my girls and how they handled adversity on and off the court.”

In the opener, junior point guard Angie Smith led Houston in scoring with 17 points, while also grabbing 5 rebounds and recording 7 steals. Lady Tigers senior forward Olivia Crites scored 16 points and snatched a game-high 12 boards, while senior guard Aliyah Walker went 2-for-7 from 3-point range and added 10.

Sophomore Peyton Wiseman led Catholic in scoring with 15 points, while junior Katie Gallegos added 12.

The back-and-forth contest was a virtual tie statistically, with two notable exceptions: Houston scored 11 points in transition while Catholic scored only 2, and Houston went 18-for-18 from the free throw line while Catholic went 9-for-15.

Against Mansfield, the Lady Tigers were outscored 39-17 in the first half.

Sophomore forward Sophia Crites scored two short baskets in each quarter and finished with 18 points to lead Houston in scoring in the contest, while Olivia Crites had 15.

Mansfield senior forward Logan Jones led the lady Lions with 24 points, while senior forward Lauren Jones had 21.

The Lady Tigers held a 36-28 lead over Forsyth at halftime of Saturday’s game, and then held off the Lady Panthers after the break.

Smith led Houston in scoring in the contest with a season-high 22 points, while Walker drained three 3-pointers and had 19 and Olivia Crites added 18.

Mansfield (No. 9 in the latest Class 3 state rankings) won the tournament championship by downing second-seeded Aurora 56-37 in Saturday’s final game.

Olivia Crites was named to the event’s All-Tournament Team.

“The girls truly showed maturity in their mental toughness this week,” Vermillion said, “and I couldn’t be more proud of them and the culture we are building here in Houston in girls basketball.” 

The Lady Tigers (11-9, 1-3 South Central Association through last week) host a SCA games against Cabool on Thursday (Feb. 2) and Liberty on Tuesday (Feb. 7). Houston also plays nonconference games Monday (Feb. 6) at Hartville and next Thursday (Feb. 9) at home against Plato.

Doug Davison

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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