By Will Johnson
WELLS – Fresh from their 74-41 victory over the Abbott Lady Panthers in the Area Championship, the Slocum Lady Mustangs were back on the court Monday, Feb. 20 for a Regional Quarterfinals matchup with the Apple Springs Lady Eagles.
Slocum had held Abbott to single digits in all but one quarter in their Friday win and figured if it worked once, why not try it again? The Lady Mustangs did exactly that and as a result, Slocum trampled Apple Springs by a score of 46-24 and punched their ticket to the Regional Tournament held in Austin.
The Lady Mustangs’ defense was the key to both wins and they put it in on display Monday night as they held the Lady Eagles to six points in the first quarter. Lacer Fry and Meaghan Pierce both scored two while Ramsi Bentley and Lillian Hollins both made one of two from the line.
That was it, however, as the Lady Mustangs forced the Lady Eagles to commit three 10-second violations in the game’s opening minutes.
On the offensive side of things, Slocum forced the Lady Eagles to spread their defense as the Lady Mustangs began to drop in long range bombs from behind the three-point line. Briley Evers knocked down two 3-pointers to go along with a layup for eight points. Jessi Ives drained a three of her own and then added an old-fashioned three pointer by hitting a shot, drawing a foul and converting a free throw for six points. Taylor Clark also had two as the Lady Mustangs galloped out to a 16-6 lead and never looked back.
While the Lady Eagles almost doubled their output going from the first to the second quarter, they still had trouble scoring from the field. Apple Springs made three two pointers to go along with five free throws for 11 total points.
Bentley had five, Hollins netted four and Fry dropped in two to close out the first half scoring for the Lady Eagles.
The Lady Mustangs continued to use the 3-pointer to their advantage as Evers hit her third 3-ball of the game. Shelby Bowman joined in on the fun with a three while Makayla Bickerstaff also had three on a two from inside and one of two from the line. Ives hit two free throws to close out the Slocum first half scoring with the Lady Mustangs ahead by a score of 27-17.
While the Slocum defense was good in the first half, it was stellar after halftime. The Lady Mustangs held Apple Springs to a total of seven second half points on five from Hollins in the third and two from Bentley in the fourth.
Meanwhile, Slocum began to pull away towards the end of the third quarter. Ives dropped in five on a three and a two point basket, Evers hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game, Jalyn Fletcher knocked down a three and Clark chipped in two to bring the score to 40-22 after three periods of play.
The Lady Mustangs slowed things down dramatically in the fourth. After the two free throws from Bentley, Slocum polished off the game with four points from Ives and free throws from both Courtney January and Bickerstaff to make the final score 46-24 and send the Lady Mustangs to the Regional Tournament.
Apple Springs was led in scoring by Lillian Hollins with 10 and Ramsi Bentley with eight. Lacer Fry dropped in four and Meaghan Pierce chipped in two for the Lady Eagles.
Slocum was led in scoring by Jessi Ives with 17 points and Briley Evers with 14. Taylor Clark and Makayla Bickerstaff both had four, Shelby Bowman and Jalyn Fletcher had three apiece and Courtney January closed out the Lady Mustangs’ scoring by converting one of two from the charity stripe.
After the game, Slocum Head Coach Dustin Bates commented on his team’s performance.
“They’ve been wanting this since the season started. We talked about it and we planned on it,” he said.
When asked about the slow start to the second half, Bates commented, “In the third quarter, we came out with three straight turnovers. We stressed for the girls to focus on the first three minutes of the quarter and maybe they were focusing too hard or playing a little tight.”
“The thing was,” the coach continued, “we had those three turnovers and five empty possessions but they (Apple Springs) only got two points out of it. They called a timeout out first and when the girls came over here, I told them we were OK. We needed to take care of the ball, clean it up and sharpen it up.”
As to the defensive dominance showed by his team, Bates explained that was his game plan heading into the contest.
“We all wrote 11 on our hand, because we are 11 strong. We have 11 girls who rotate in and out. You saw it tonight. All of them did their part. They didn’t have to score a bucket, but they all played defense. They all pressured the ball and I think the second half of the third quarter is when we pulled away. That was when they wore down. That #3 (Hollins) and #4 (Bentley) are pretty quick, but by the end of the third, they couldn’t get by us anymore,” he said.
The Lady Mustangs will face the winner of the Nueces Canyon . The game is scheduled for tip-off at 8 p.m. on Feb. 24 at the Burger Gym located at 3200 Jones Road in Austin.
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Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .