Hot shooting leads Gunter over Bells in 11-3A play
GUNTER — The first shot the Lady Tigers hit was a three-pointer. So was the second. And the third. And the fifth.
The barrage from beyond the arc continued for Gunter and the nearly 20-point lead by the end of the first quarter continued to grow.
When it was over the Lady Tigers made 10 three-pointers and cruised to a 64-27 victory against the Bells Lady Panthers in District 11-3A action.
“We shot the ball really well. We’ve got a bunch of kids when they get hot they can shoot like that,” Gunter head coach Katie Stinton said.
Alyssa Tarpley had 21 points and 12 rebounds, Sarah Putnicki added 14 points and 11 rebounds, Blakely Esnard chipped in 10 points and nine assists and Rhyan Pogue scored eight points for Gunter (10-3, 2-0), which plays at Bonham on Friday night.
Cheznie Hale scored 12 points, Kayton Arnold added six points and Bailee Dorris chipped in five points for Bells (5-6, 1-1), which hosts Blue Ridge on Friday.
Now districtmates after the latest realignment, this was a rematch of a bi-district contest which Bells won, 53-46, last season.
“Our kids weren’t happy losing to them in the playoffs,” Stinton said. “That was something they remembered. We weren’t thinking of it as making a statement. We need to have that edge in every game. We wanted to come out and play really well. That’s what you have to do in this district. Everybody’s pretty solid.”
While the Lady Tigers were just a couple baskets from having five players in double figures, it was their work on the defensive end which turned the game into a lopsided finish. Bells made just six shots, including only two in the first half, and had 14 points through three quarters before notching 13 in the fourth.
“I’m a defense-first kind of coach,” Stinton said. “We want to go into every game with the mindset that we’re not going to outscore you. We’re going to stop you.”
Tarpley and Lindsay Esnard each hit a pair of three-pointers in the first five minutes as Gunter raced out to a 14-2 lead.
Pogue capped the quarter with a three in the closing seconds to give the Lady Tigers a 23-5 advantage.
Dorris scored four of the five points for the Lady Panthers, including hitting their only shot in the middle of the frame.
Gunter had a 12-0 run in the middle of the second quarter where Pogue and Tarpley sandwiched three-pointers between consecutive layups from Putnicki. It gave the Lady Tigers a 37-8 lead that was 39-10 at the break.
Hale scored all five points for Bells and her bucket in the first minute was the only other shot the Lady Panthers made before half-time.
Gunter’s advantage hit 30 points on Putnicki’s layin with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter and the Lady Tigers carried a 50-14 lead into the final eight minutes.
Bells forced nine turnovers in the fourth and was able to produce a little more offense, nearly matching Gunter in the stanza 14-13. The Lady Tigers had their lead peak at 40 points with just under three minutes remaining.
After getting 21 wins in Stinton’s first season and reaching the playoffs for the fifth time in seven years, the Lady Tigers brought back all but two players and had Tarpley, a junior, transfer from Allen as they try for their first playoff victory since 2013.
Nine of their 11 non-district games were against Class 4A or bigger programs and two of the three losses are by two points.
“I think anytime you’re in your second year at a program, it’s a totally different ballgame,” Stinton said. “They know the system. They know you. Anytime a large number of players return and you add a player like Alyssa, you want to have big goals. Our goal is to win district and make a playoff run deep into February or into March.”