Lady Cards win defensive battle over Lady Bulldogs
HOWE — Defense has been the calling card for Pottsboro during its hot start to the season and the reason there is only one loss on the ledger so far.
"We're playing some good defense. Nobody's scored more than 40 on us except for Muenster," first-year Pottsboro head coach Aaron Bates said.
The Lady Cardinals' defeat against the undefeated and top-ranked team in 2A still stands as the only setback after Pottsboro held off Howe, 39-36, in District 11-3A action.
"Just have to make some more shots," Bates said. "In this district, there's so many teams that can beat each other. Everybody's pretty evenly match. We've been really good defensively but we have to make shots, have to make our threes, have to hit free throws."
Hadley Williams scored 12 of her 18 points in the second half, Hannah Fellinger totaled five points, six rebounds and six steals and Autumn Graley had five points for Pottsboro (11-1, 2-0), which hosts Gunter on Tuesday night in a battle of district unbeatens.
Sierra Copeland had 22 points and 19 rebounds while Katie Grogan and Kendall Griffin each chipped in four points and Trinity Williams finished with five rebounds, three assists and three blocks for Howe (2-5, 0-3), which plays at Bonham on Tuesday.
The Lady Cardinals stretched their lead to 10 with a little more than six minutes remaining but Howe started clawing its way back into the game.
It began on the defensive end as the Lady Bulldogs held Pottsboro to just a free throw by Williams for nearly five minutes.
Grogan made a three-pointer on the right wing and Copeland converted a three-point play on the ensuing possession and Howe was down only 35-32 with 3:48 to go.
Neither team scored for the next 3:19. Pottsboro melted almost a minute-and-a-half off the clock before Howe fouled with 2:17 remaining. The Lady Cardinals missed the front end of all three one-and-one situations at the line but the Lady Bulldogs couldn't take advantage, committing a pair of turnovers and missed a tying three.
Williams eventually extended Pottsboro's lead to five on a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left before Copeland answered with a bucket but missed the chance to complete the three-point play with 18 seconds on the clock.
The teams exchanged free throws over the next 12 seconds — Graley and Fellinger each hit one as Pottsboro ended 3-of-9 from the line in the final two minutes while Copeland made two. She grabbed the rebound following Fellinger's miss with 6.2 seconds left and after calling a time-out with three seconds to go, Howe looked to force overtime.
But Trinity Williams' attempt at the buzzer went off the right side of the rim and the Lady Cardinals held on.
Williams put Pottsboro in front to stay on consecutive three-pointers from the top of the key with just under three minutes left in the third.
"Hadley played really, really good tonight. We needed her," Bates said. "We lean on Hannah and Hadley a lot."
Howe had a 6-0 spurt on baskets by Copeland, Griffin and Teagan Stubblefield for a 22-18 advantage but Williams followed with those long-range shots and then made a jumper from the elbow.
Griffin scored on a drive but Fellinger made a pair of free throws with nine seconds left in the quarter and Jesi Stickley hit a jumper from the right side at the buzzer to give the Lady Cardinals a 30-24 lead after three.
Pottsboro went into the locker room with a 15-13 advantage when Williams nailed a three-pointer with 33 seconds left in the half.
It was the second straight quarter where both teams produced single-digit efforts and Howe went almost five minutes without scoring. The Lady Bulldogs were up 11-10 on a Copeland bucket and Landry Sanders hit a jumper for a 13-10 advantage with 2:07 to go before the break.
The Lady Cardinals weren't much better in that eight-minute stretch, making only three shots themselves but they made the last two — Ali Malone notched a putback before Williams' three — to take the slim half-time margin.
Howe held a 9-7 lead after the first quarter when Copeland scored underneath with 45 seconds left in the frame.
"We tried to slow her down has best we can," Bates said. "We tried to put pressure on their guards so they couldn't get it to her, force turnovers."
The Lady Bulldogs had the lead for all but 24 seconds of the stanza when Brayli Simpson hit a three-pointer to put Pottsboro up 7-5 with 1:17 on the clock. Williams followed with a putback before Copeland's bucket.
It took more than two minutes for either team to score with Howe starting off on a free throw from Grogan and a Copeland layin before Fellinger hit a jumper — the 3-2 score was the only change on the scoreboard through the opening five-and-a-half minutes.