Second-place Whitesboro turns back S&S
WHITESBORO — It was a trap game both mentally and physically for the Lady Bearcats, and for a little more than a quarter-and-a-half it looked like Whitesboro would take the bait.
Coming off their first loss in more than five weeks and starting the second half of district play, it took some time to get over a close defeat as well as the full-court pressure being applied by the S&S Lady Rams.
“There were obviously some feelings on both sides of the fence after the loss,” first-year Whitesboro head coach Nick Hiebert said. “No matter what your feelings, you know the second round is going to difficult. This was a game I was worried about with S&S because they have a talented freshman group.”
But the Lady Bearcats finally got in gear and clamped down defensively for a 38-20 victory over the Lady Rams in 10-3A action.
Olivia Hildebrand came close to a triple-double — eight points, nine rebounds, seven assists — while Libby Langford scored 10 points and Zalenka Brannan added seven points for Whitesboro (11-7, 7-1), which can clinch a playoff spot with a win at Pilot Point on Saturday.
“That was one of the goals for the seniors,” Hiebert said. “Win more games than we lose and make the playoffs. I want the mentality to be on the next step though.”
The Lady Bearcats, winners in 10 of their last 11 with the lone loss coming to first-place Ponder, already have four more victories than a year ago and more than doubled their district win total as they chase their first postseason berth since 2018.
Brenna Howard scored 13 points and Kaci Swindall added four points f0r S&S (7-13, 3-5), which hosts first-place Ponder on Friday night. The Lady Rams now find themselves two games out of a crowded playoff race, chasing both Pilot Point and Paradise while Valley View is only a half-game behind S&S.
An 11-0 run to open the second quarter gave Whitesboro its first lead and the Lady Cats held it the rest of the way. Langford was in the middle of it with a pair of baskets to go with some free throws and Brannan made a three-pointer from the left wing off an inbounds play.
S&S almost went scoreless in the frame before Swindall made a free throw with 47 seconds until the break and the home team went into the locker room with a 16-10 advantage.
“We were trying to chip away at it: score and stop; score and stop and then put them in a position to have to fight back,” Hiebert said.
Whitesboro opened the game playing from behind as the Lady Rams followed Howard's lead to a 7-0 advantage. She hit a three and followed with a layup while Swindall and Allie Hickman hit free throws.
Allison Muntz finally got the Lady Bearcats on the board with a three after more than five minutes. Her layup accounted for the only other points by Whitesboro in the opening stanza and S&S carried a 9-5 lead into the second quarter.
“We’ve had a lot of slow starts. This team is getting used to a lot of different things this season,” Hiebert said.
Hildebrand did a little bit of everything to help the Lady Bearcats pull away. She opened the second half with a three-point play and then gave Whitesboro a 26-13 lead with a three-pointer in the final minute of the third while nearly all of her assists came on inbounds passes.
“As a freshman, that’s the most important thing, coming in and being embraced. They’ve all embraced each other regardless of grade,” Hiebert said. “Hold each other accountable and lift each other up.”
Aniyah Shaw's only basket was a three-pointer she banked in from the left wing at the buzzer to end the third and then minutes into the fourth quarter the margin had widened to 20 points.
S&S was in the middle of a drought which reached nine minutes from Howard's three in the early stages of the third — which were the only points for the Lady Rams in the frame — until Hickman's putback with 5:32 remaining.