POTTSBORO — There are just a few games left in the regular season but the 9-3A standings have essentially been split throughout all of district play.
It is a top-heavy group with a trio of teams that have run roughshod over everyone else while producing fierce battles against each other.
Ponder has emerged as the front-runner withe three games remaining but the race for second and third is going to come down to the wire. The Pottsboro Lady Cardinals find themselves tied with Gunter and the Lady Tigers currently hold the tie-breaker due to a three-point win.
They will meet again — in Pottsboro — next Friday for a contest that should finalize the playoff seeding. Between now and then the Lady Cardinals can’t afford to slip up, something they haven’t done when facing the teams out the playoff chase. The latest example came in Pottsboro’s 68-32 home victory over Whitesboro which clinched the Lady Cardinals’ eighth straight playoff berth.
“We can control what we can control, not what other people are doing,” Pottsboro head coach Keith Bates said. “We play good defense, share the ball and if we do things the right way then things will take care of themselves.”
Hadley Williams had 17 points and four steals, Autumn Graley totaled 13 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals, Tatum Rekieta chipped in nine points, five steals and four rebounds and Emma Powlison scored nine points for Pottsboro (23-6, 7-2), which plays at fourth-place Pilot Point on Friday night.
“That Pilot Point game will be tough since we have to go to their place,” Bates said. “We’ve got to get better every week. We know we’re a playoff team. We’ve got to play like one.”
Pottsboro’s only other 9-3A loss came against Ponder last week when the Lady Cardinals were down 18 early but cut the deficit all the way down to two in the closing minutes before falling by eight. All but one of their district victories have been by at least 11 points.
Libby Langford had 12 points and 15 rebounds while Skyler Brannan, Alli Muntz and Ashlee Hensley chipped in four points apiece for Whitesboro (6-23, 1-7), which hosts Gunter on Friday.
After a sluggish start, Pottsboro turned up the defensive pressure to break the game open.
Langford hit a three-pointer to give Whitesboro its only lead at 3-2 and Haylee Boren’s floater in the lane pulled the Lady Bearcats within a point in the middle of the first.
Pottsboro closed the quarter on a 13-3 run with Powlison hitting a pair of three-pointers as the Lady Cardinals held a 19-8 advantage after the opening eight minutes. Whitesboro finished with nine turnovers in the frame and ended the half with 17 as Pottsboro continued to pad its lead.
The Lady Bearcats made just six shots in the first half — Pottsboro hit five three-pointers alone during the opening two quarters — and were down by 20, 36-16, at the break. Brayli Simpson matched Powlison with a pair of threes during the second quarter, the last coming with six seconds on the clock.
“They didn’t get to take a lot of shots for a long time, which I thought was good,” Bates said. “We have to be just as good on the defensive end.”
Eight of the 10 Lady Cardinals scored while being led by Williams netting nine points in the half and then getting the rest of her scoring done in the third quarter as Pottsboro widened the gap.
It was a 14-0 run powered on threes from Graley and Powlison that was bookended by buckets from Williams which put Pottsboro up 50-16 just past the midway point of the third quarter when Hensley scored to end Whitesboro’s drought. But the Lady Bearcats managed just a free throw by Zalenka Brannan the rest of the frame.
The Lady Cardinals stretched their lead to 40 at the end of the quarter, 59-19, and it was their largest of the contest before pulling back on the throttle. Pottsboro scored just twice in the first six minutes of the fourth stanza and Whitesboro ended up producing almost as many points in the final quarter (13) as it did in the first three (19).