Lady Lions Fall in Regional Quarterfinals Heartbreaker

Martin’s Mill 67 Lovelady 65

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

ELKHART – It doesn’t always happen that a game lives up to the hype surrounding it. On Tuesday night, however, the action, competitiveness and intensity between the Lovelady Lady Lions and the Martin’s Mill Lady Mustangs far surpassed the pregame buildup.

The two teams faced off in the Regional Quarterfinals of the 2021-2022 UIL Girls’ Basketball Playoffs and the stands were packed to the rafters in Elkhart. Lovelady came into the contest ranked #5 in the final regular season TABC poll with a record of 33-4 while Martin’s Mill was ranked #2, with a record of 33-3.

The Lady Mustangs had the pedigree on their side as they had won six state championships since 2006, had five runner-up finishes and six other appearances as a state semifinalist. In fact, since the 2006 championship, Martin’s Mill had failed to make the state tournament only twice – once in 2014 and the other time in 2020.

Given that their history seemed to be worth at least 10 points per game and the Lady Lions had not played very well in their Area Round win over Bosqueville, it seemed like the Lady Mustangs were chomping at the bit to take on Lovelady.

The Lady Lions, however, came out and smacked Martin’s Mill right in the mouth as they took a 21-20 lead after the first eight minutes of play. The Lady Mustangs took the lead in the second quarter but could only push the margin to a two-point lead at the break.

Lovelady controlled the tempo in the third and went up by as many as six before settling for a one-point lead with only one quarter left to play.

In the final period of play, Martin’s Mill went to the three-ball and it paid dividends as they knocked down five of eight. Still, the Lady Lions had a chance to win or tie the game with less than 10 seconds left to play. Unfortunately, a slip near mid-court and a held ball gave possession back to the Lady Mustangs who were able to run out the clock and escape with a 67-65 win.

As the game got underway, the Lovelady defense managed to keep every Martin’s Mill player in check except Jada Celsur who dropped in 16 points. She was joined in the scoring column by Libby Rogers with four, first quarter points.

The Lady Lions played an inside out game in the opening period. Mihyia Davis worked the interior for six points while Lexi Price directed the game from her point position and dropped in a pair of three-pointers. Shyanne Pipkin hit from downtown and added a pair of free throws while Aaliyah Jones also connected from behind the arc. In addition, Jones was one of two from the line to help Lovelady take the early 21-20 lead.

Celsur continued to bedevil the Lady Lions as she added eight more to her total in the second. If you have heard her name before, that’s because she is a 3 x All-State player and was the State Tourney MVP when the Lady Mustangs won the 2019 title over the Grapeland Sandiettes.

Mattie Burns had six for Martin’s Mill while Ruthie Mein chipped in two points to close out the Lady Mustangs’ first half scoring.

Lovelady managed to withstand the Lady Mustangs’ onslaught in the second period and only trailed by two at the break, 36-34. Price continued her strong play as she added five more to her total in the second. Jones and Pipkin both hit from behind the arc while Davis added a basket to close out the Lady Lions’ first half point production.

Following the intermission, the Lovelady defense stiffened. The Lady Lions tied the game at the six-minute mark of the third only to see Martin’s Mill open up a five-point lead. Just when the Lady Mustang fans thought their team was about to pull away, Davis hit a three for Lovelady to cut the lead to two.

After Kate Lindsey made one of two for Martin’s Mill, Price brought the ball up the floor and connected from downtown to tie the game at 47.

A turnover gave the ball back to Lady Lions and when Pipkin converted a pair from the charity stripe, Lovelady regained the lead at 49-47 with 1:02 left in the third.

Celsur closed out the period as she converted one of two from the line to make the score 49-48 after three periods of play were in the books. She scored six for the Lady Mustangs in the third while Rogers had three. Kylee Lookabaugh added two and Lindsey chipped in a free throw.

Davis led the way for Lovelady as she had two three-pointers as part of her eight points in the quarter. Pipkin dropped in four while Price connected on her third three of the game to round out the third quarter scoring for the Lady Lions.

With eight minutes separating one team from going to the Regional Semis and the other going home, the two teams continued to battle back-and-forth. Davis grabbed a rebound and made a put back at the six-minute mark to put Lovelady up by six.          

A three-pointer from Martin’s Mill cut the lead in half with 5:10 left to play but a two from Macie LaRue put the Lady Lions back up by five with 4:30 left.

One thing about the Lady Mustangs is they don’t get rattled. After being down by five with 4:30 left to play, the Lady Mustangs came roaring back to tie the score at 57 with 3:52 remaining.

Mein connected from three-point land to give Martin’s Mill the lead, but a pair of free throws from Davis trimmed the margin to one at the 2:31 mark. Another three by the Lady Mustangs pushed the lead out to four but back-to-back baskets from Pipkin and Price knotted things up at 63 with 1:51 remaining.

Celsur connected on yet another three-pointer but Price came right back with a two to make it 66-65 with just over 24 seconds left to play.

On the next possession, Burns was fouled and went to the line. She made one-of-two to make the score 67-65 with 9.9 seconds left to play.

Unfortunately, that’s the way the game ended as the Lady Lions were not able to get off a final shot to either tie or win the game.

On the game, Martin’s Mill was led by Jada Celsur with a game-high 34 points. She was joined in double figures by Libby Rogers with 12. Ruthie Mein had eight, Mattie Burns added seven Kate Lindsey dropped in four and Kylee Lookabaugh had two points to account for the Lady Mustangs point production.

Lovelady was led in scoring by three players in double figures. Mihyia Davis had a team-high 20 while Lexi Price was right behind her with 18. Shyanne Pipkin netted 14, Aaliyah Jones went for nine and Macie LaRue rounded out the Lady Lions’ scoring with four.

While it wasn’t the way the Lady Lions wanted their year to end, they should be congratulated on an outstanding season.   

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].  

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