By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
It has been awhile since the Belton Lady Tigers basketball has put any hardware in their trophy cabinet. They can add a Copperas Cove/Bush’s Classic bronze bracket championship to their resume. Having led in all five games of the tournament, Belton went 3-2 overall, with the two close losses being to Manvel and Waco LaVega by a total of nine points. The Lady Tigers opened with Austin Akins in their first pool game on Thursday. After trailing by a basket early, Blair Gilbert and Cammie Moore combined for 13 of Belton’s 17 first quarter points and led 17-7 after the first quarter. The teams traded baskets evenly in the second quarter and Belton led at the half, 25-15. Elicia Jackson, Keilee Burke and Natasha Blizzard crashed the boards hard in the third quarter, while Moore and Hannah Martin supplied the offense to give the Lady Tigers a 39-24 advantage in the third quarter.
Elisa Priddy and Emily Del Real picked up buckets in the fourth quarter and Belton coasted to the 49-32 win over Akins. Moore had 11 points and seven rebounds for Belton, while Blizzard chipped in eight points. Brooklyn Childers and Danae Lofton each had 10 points for Akins. The Lady Tigers took on perennial powerhouse Manvel in the next pool game on Thursday afternoon. Belton led early 6-4, as Moore hit a three-pointer to start the ballgame. The Lady Tigers led 12-4 before McKinzie Green hit three consecutive three-pointer to give Manvel a 13-12 lead at halftime.Manvel led 23-20 at the end of the third quarter before Belton went on a 11-6 burst over the first six minutes of the quarter and led 31-29 with two minutes left. Another Green three-pointer and two foul shots foiled the Lady Tigers upset bid 34-31.
Green finished with 14 points, hitting four three-pointers. Moore also finished with 14 points, while Gilbert and Martin each had five points. On Friday morning, the Lady Tigers took on Round Rock McNeil to start the day. Poised, rested and energetic after their strong Thursday, they came out firing on all cylinders. The led 17-8 at the end of the first quarter and shut out the Lady Mavericks in the second quarter to lead 29-8 at the half. The Lady Tigers continued to pour it on in the second half, outscoring McNeil 10-6 in the third quarter and 11-4 in the final quarter to win their second pool game, 50-18. Moore led all scorers with 15 points and Del Real added 10 points. Martin and Burke each had seven points, while Burke had three blocks.
Belton’s final pool game of the tournament was against the Waco La Vega Lady Pirates, another state basketball power. The Lady Tigers, who were punished by La Vega in the tournament in 2014, played strong in the ball game and led 15-14 at the end of the first quarter and 27-24 at halftime. The teams continued their back-and-forth tug through the third quarter and Belton held the advantage at the end of the quarter, 43-41. Kaitlyn Jones and Aliyah Bunch played great defense in the first half for Belton. The Lady Tigers found themselves in foul trouble in the fourth quarter and put the Lady Pirates on the line with regularity. La Vega used the foul shots to work into the lead, outscoring the Lady Tigers 16-8 in the final stanza and snuffed out another upset bid by Belton, 57-51.
Ta’Naiya Norwood led all scorers with 17 points for La Vega, Calveion Landrum contributed 15 points and Odision Miles scored 14 points. Elicia Jackson led the Lady Tigers with 14 points and five offensive rebounds. Del Real added 11 points, Burke chipped in eight points and Moore contributed seven points. The Tigers faces Odessa New Way Christian Academy in the consolation finals. The Lady Eagles were one of the talks of the tournament, bringing six players to the tournament and playing five. But the five players were aggressive and challenging, giving Belton a great game. The Lady Tigers led after the first quarter 22-14 and 38-26 at halftime. New Way made their way back into the game with a 14-9 third quarter to trail Belton 47-40. Belton’s depth was too much for the Lady Eagles, as the Lady Tigers won the ball game 59-52 to win the bronze bracket.
Roeshonda Patterson led all scorers with 27 points for the Lady Eagles and Nia Smith added 17. Moore led the Lady Tigers with 15 points (all three-point shots) and 10 rebounds, Del Real had 12 points (all three-point shots) and Gilbert added 11 points.
Moore and Gilbert were selected to the all-tournament team. “I am so proud of the girls for their effort in this tournament,” Belton head coach Brenda Gomez said. “We have gotten better and continue to look forward to the challenges ahead.”