GUNTER — There is a hope that it will not come down to the last night of the regular season, let alone carry over to a play-in game like it did for the Lady Tigers last season.
That’s when they fought to the end, found themselves tied and then were beaten by S&S for the district’s final playoff spot.
Gunter needed some help if it was going to clinch a return to the postseason after doing its part with a 62-31 victory against Whitesboro in District 9-3A action on Friday night. The other result didn’t fall the Lady Tigers’ way and they may not need to as Gunter is on the verge of taking care of business itself.
“We just take it one game at a time,” first-year Gunter head coach Kamy London said. “Our goal is to win every game. When we entered district, the goal was to win district. At the midway point we were in third and after losing to Ponder, we need to seal the deal with third place.”
Tori Gittens had 30 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists, Sarah Putnicki chipped in nine points and eight rebounds, Channing Clement scored seven points and Taylor Boddie and Bri Carr added six points apiece for third-place Gunter (17-8, 6-4).
“All of them contribute. All of them hustle. All of them work hard,” London said. “They work really well together. I think over the course of the year we’ve adjusted to what this team does well.”
The Lady Tigers can clinch a playoff spot with a win at Pilot Point on Tuesday night or with a loss by either S&S or Callisburg. If Gunter wins, it would lock up the third seed and set up a bi-district round game against the second-place team in District 10-3A.
But there is a bit of caution for the Lady Tigers, who know how close you can come to not getting in. Gittens missed all of district play last season with a knee injury and Gunter ended up in that fourth-place tie with S&S. The outlook is a little more sunny down the stretch this time as the Lady Tigers approach 20 wins but nothing is guaranteed.
Maggie McCorkle had eight points, nine rebounds and four assists, Libby Langford added seven points, five steals and four rebounds, BreAnn Beste chipped in five points and three rebounds and Hermayonie Dominguez totaled four points and five rebounds for Whitesboro (6-22, 1-8), which has struggled as the roster has been hit by injury and a transfer.
After the first quarter the Lady Bearcats didn’t look like a team at the bottom of the standings. Gunter opened an early lead before Whitesboro jumped ahead behind Langford, who scored four straight points in a 9-1 run that was started by a McCorkle three-pointer.
Putnicki scored with 1:29 left in the frame to end a nearly three-minute scoring drought and Whitesboro managed to take a 12-8 advantage to the second quarter.
From that point on the Lady Bearcats struggled to get anything going and Gunter made the most of the opportunity to go in front for good.
“It takes us a second to get into it sometimes. When we’re stagnant on offense it doesn’t work as well,” London said. “We started pressing them a little more. That helped us convert on offense.”
The Lady Tigers outscored Whitesboro 19-5 in the second quarter which allowed them to hold a 27-17 lead at the break and Gunter then dominated the eight-minute stretch of the third with a 19-2 margin on the scoreboard that broke things open and pushed the advantage to almost 30.
Across the final three quarters, Gunter produced 54 points while Whitesboro only mustered 19.
It took until the second half of the second quarter when Gunter went in front to stay. McCorkle had a putback and made a free throw as the Lady Bearcats led 16-13 in the middle of the frame.
Putnicki started a 12-0 run with back-to-back layups and Clement had a three from the right corner to fuel the surge.
The breakout offensively continued into the second half. Carr drilled a three, Gittens followed with a pair of baskets and the first nine points of the third opened the floodgates.
Dominguez hit a turnaround on the right block to get Whitesboro on the board with 5:31 remaining in the stanza before the Lady Bearcats went scoreless the rest of the quarter. Gittens scored the remaining 10 points for Gunter as the lead ballooned to 46-19 entering the fourth.