Lady Tomcats have company atop 14-2A standings
TOM BEAN — It was a place the Lady Tomcats haven't been very often. But there they were, sitting alone in first place and a chance to cement that spot as the second half of district play began.
But now Tom Bean was the target and the Bland Lady Tigers were seeking revenge. Their only loss came against the Lady Tomcats, was by five points and provided a picture that a season sweep wouldn't be easy.
Tom Bean still finds itself atop the standings, just with some company after Bland defeated the Lady Tomcats, 61-54, in 14-2A action.
"I really think it brings us back to earn and it will make them work harder," Tom Bean head coach Mandi Corbin said. "We're still tied for first but it shows we have to keep putting in the work if we want to stay there."
Taylor Brown and Kaitlyn Lind each scored 13 points, Meagan Warren had 10 points and Emmy Pennell added eight points for Tom Bean (14-4, 6-1), which plays at Wolfe City on Tuesday night.
Connie Hughes scored 26 points, May'C Lahvic added 13 points and Monica Alonso finished with 12 points for Bland (8-1, 6-1), which hosts Celeste on Tuesday.
It was the first defeat in five weeks for Tom Bean, which had a seven-game winning streak snapped and lost for the first time with its full lineup.
"They outrebounded us. I think that was the difference. They came to fight," Corbin said. "We have bigs and we usually win that battle."
The bigger picture is still in focus. If the Lady Tomcats win their next two games, they will clinch the program's first playoff appearance since 2007. If they can remain in first, it will be their first district title since 2001.
"We harp on it all the time. Ya'll can make history," Corbin said. "When the season started it was just trying to make the playoffs. Our goals have changed. Now it's about winning a district championship and winning in the playoffs."
Tom Bean is on the verge of increasing its win total in each of Corbin's three years leading the program.
"This is the same group," she said. "We took some beatings the last two years but as long as we kept putting in the work, good things would come. They know it's our time."
The Lady Tomcats were down by nine early in the fourth quarter before a 7-0 run got it down to a two-point game after Brown's three-point play.
It would stay at worst a two-possession game for the next five minutes but Tom Bean could only close the gap to two on a pair of occasions, the last on Lind's bucket with 3:12 remaining.
Hughes had an answer each time and she scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. The Lady Tigers stretched the lead back to nine on a three-point play from Yadira Elias with 1:38 to go but Tom Bean would have a chance to tie the game.
Lind answered with a three-point play on the ensuing possession and the Lady Tomcats then forced a turnover. Warren got a friendly bounce on a three from the top of the key and Bland was up 57-54 with 1:05 on the clock.
The Lady Tigers had a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds play to give Tom Bean the ball back. Emma Lowing was fouled but missed both free throws with 58 seconds left and the Lady Tomcats were forced to foul.
Bland made its first eight free throws in the quarter and Lahvic ended the streak on her second attempt with 52 seconds left but Tom Bean turned the ball over and the Lady Tigers sealed the win at the line.
Both teams found an offensive rhythm in the third quarter and nearly matched their outputs from the first half in this eight-minute stretch.
Bland slightly extended its lead by the end of the stanza at 44-37. Tom Bean had opened the second half with an 8-4 burst that tied the game at 28 on Warren's layup with 4:50 to go but it was as close as Tom Bean would have to a lead since 13-11.
After the Lady Tigers went back in front, Bri Yale hit a pair of three-pointers only to have them answered. Hughes, Alonso and Lahvic all connected from deep and Aziah Lopez's putback in the final seconds provided a seven-point margin.
It looked like Bland was going to take a significant lead into the locker room as Tom Bean went almost the entire second quarter with just a single basket. Lind's's putback tied the score at 17 with 5:47 remaining before Bland notched seven quick points for a 24-17 lead.
"We just couldn't get anything going offensively at all," Corbin said. "The second quarter really killed us. That's where they really got momentum."
But the Lady Tigers then went scoreless for the final 2:53 of the half and Brown converted a three-point play in the final minute that trimmed the deficit to 24-20.
The teams played an even first quarter which was tied at 15 when Pennell pushed the ball ahead to Brown for a layup at the buzzer. There were six lead changes and four ties with neither side holding more than a two-point lead.
Lahvic hit a pair of three-pointers and Hughes also connected from deep in the frame.
Tom Bean 54