By Tony Adams
The Belton Lady Tigers, refreshed and ready following the Christmas break, played in the Lady Badgers Holiday Tournament in Lampasas last weekend.
Belton recovered from a disastrous final 13 minutes that ruined a run at the Lampasas title, but recovered to win the silver bracket and take a fifth place finish overall.
The Lady Tigers got off to a hot start by ripping through the Early Lady Horns to the tune of 23-7 in the first quarter and rode the momentum to a 75-31 win.
Belton bolted out to a 9-0 lead just 2:37 in. Following an Early free throw and basketball, Emily del Real sunk a 3-pointer and began a 14-3 run to close out the quarter. del Real, Emily Hugo and Kinsey Williams all had key parts in the run.
The Lady Tigers continued the momentum into the second quarter. Blair Gilbert’s jumper at the 6:29 mark set in motion a 16-5 run to close out the quarter. Hugo sunk a 3-pointer and Aubrianna Garcia sunk home a pair of threes during the run, which gave Belton a 39-12 at the break.
Garcia’s 3-pointer at the 7:22 mark launched a 23-8 Belton third quarter. Garcia, Hugo, Gilbert and Cammie Moore all drained threes during the run, with Gilbert collecting seven points in the quarter.
The Lady Tigers led 62-20 at the end of the third quarter.
Belton’s regulars and their bench got significant playing time in the fourth quarter and played excellent defense. Kaitlyn Jones, Tina Jones, Jhynae McCray and Cameron Jackson had their hands in the passing lanes, deflecting and stealing passes and getting lay ups to keep the Lady Tigers rolling and held on for a 75-31 win.
Garcia finished with 18 points.
The second game of pool play brought the Corsicana Lady Tigers calling.
Belton got off to a good start, leading 12-5 after the first quarter and 23-14 at halftime.
Hugo drained a pair of jumpers to make the score 27-14 with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter. Corsicana turned up the heat on Belton, running a man-to-man defense. They ran up 18 consecutive points and forced 14 turnovers. They took over the lead and Belton was only able to answer with one free throw with 45 seconds remaining, falling to Corsicana 34-28.
The loss relegated Belton to the silver bracket, where they took on Class 3A No. 11 Lorena in a great matchup.
Once again, the Lady Tigers roared out to an early lead. A pair of Hugo 3-pointers sandwiched around a great bucket by Garcia off of a Gilbert feed put Belton on top 8-1 with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter. Michal Bennett drained a 3-pointer for the Lady Leopards and triggered a 10-0 run that bridged into the second quarter.
Belton and Lorena traded the lead back and forth through the quarter, before Cassidy Crye’s two free throws gave the Lady Leopards a 20-19 lead at halftime.
The Lady Tigers controlled the opening possession of the second half for 50 seconds before McKinzee Robinson drained a jumper to take a one-point lead. Following a field goal by Ashlyn Bell, the Lady Tigers closed out the quarter on a 7-0 run, with five points from Garcia and a pair of free throws from Tina Jones to take a 28-22 lead into the fourth quarter.
Lorena went on a 10-4 run in the first 4:27 in the final frame to tie the game at 32-32. The teams traded the lead three times before a beautiful inbound pass from Williams fed Hugo in the paint to take a 37-36 lead with 42.7 seconds left, forcing the Lady Leopards to take a timeout.
Officiating, which had been questionable towards both sides, reared its ugly head during the timeout. Lorena coach Rodney Gee, who was issued a warning at the 1:08 mark of the first half and had a short conversation with officials before he went into his huddle, slammed his clipboard in the middle of the huddle to get his team’s attention. The officials issued him a technical foul for misconduct. Garcia sunk the technical foul shots and Belton went to the line twice more, giving the Lady Tigers a 43-36 win over the 11th ranked team in Class 3A.
The Belton coaching staff felt both teams played a great ball game, but felt pretty bad about the ending.
“It’s unfortunate that happened,” said Belton head coach Brenda Gomez. “Both of our teams played great basketball and that’s what we talked about after the game. It was a shame because there were questionable calls both ways and it’s not really the way a good game should play out. That’s a really good Lorena team.”
The victory set up a silver bracket final against Fredericksburg. Gilbert started the game with a 3-pointer. Ali Laratta answered with a field goal for the Lady Billies and Erin McPherson and Anissa Kneese gave them an 8-3 lead with a pair of 3-pointers. Gilbert and del Real hit baskets and Robinson hit a free throw to tie the game 8-8, which is how the quarter ended.
Kaitlyn Jones hit a big 3-pointer to give the Lady Tigers an 11-10 lead. The Lady Billies turned up the physical play and put Belton on the line four times in the second quarter, successfully making 7-of-8 free throws to give them a 21-13 lead at halftime.
The third quarter was a roaring success for the Lady Tigers, as Garcia had eight points and Hugo added a 3-pointer for a 11-0, quarter-long run to give Belton a 32-13 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Tigers ran the score to 34-15 before Fredericksburg broke a 15:59 field goal drought with a McPherson jumper at 5:45 in the fourth quarter made the score 34-17. The teams traded scores, but the closest the Lady Billies got was 14 before falling 40-24 to the Lady Tigers.
“We weren’t hitting shots like crazy,” said Gomez. “But we played great defense to make up for that. An 11-0 third quarter was great to see. We were communicating well and letting each other know where they were. It was great.
The tournament served Belton well, as combined with their Copperas Cove victory; they picked up four wins in eight days and are now 6-11. They return to District 8-5A with a Friday matchup with Killeen at Tiger Gym at 2:30 p.m.