Tom Bean holds off Era for first playoff win in 20 years
HOWE — The 20th victory for the Lady Tomcats was not just a milestone for this successful season. It was a reminder of how far Tom Bean has come and how much more it still wants to achieve.
Coming into the year, no Lady Cat had won that many games in their career. The program barely had that many combined in the last six. But a core of juniors and seniors have improved in the standings each season, ready to update a long list of accomplishments.
After making the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and earning its first district title since 2001, Tom Bean picked up a ended a 20-year stretch without a postseason victory as the Lady Tomcats defeated Era, 56-47, in a Class 2A Region II bi-district contest.
Tom Bean (20-4) advances to face Cooper (17-7) in the area round at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Greenville.
“This is what they’ve been building for. We were having to learn how to win. This group is so special,” Lady Tomcats head coach Mandi Corbin said. “They wanna win. They don’t want this season to be over. To be here and win is so much more than what we expected to at the beginning of the year.”
Emmy Pennell scored 15 points, Emma Lowing added 13 points and eight rebounds, Kaitlyn Lind totaled 12 points and 12 rebounds and Megan Warren finished with four points, 10 assists, five rebounds and three steals for the Lady Tomcats, who were without guard Taylor Brown after she suffered a concussion in the District 14-2A finale.
That shifted the lineup, not to mention Pennell and Kendal Cole exited late in the fourth quarter after fouling out.
“It was a different dynamic on the floor from the start,” Corbin said. “We got into foul trouble but I thought we were able to handle it for the most part.”
Kiara Franklin had 21 points while Kate Krebs and Ella Haseloff chipped in nine points apiece for Era (13-14), which was a region semifinalist last season but a fourth seed this year after losing a tie-breaker game against Lindsay.
“I knew Era wasn’t going to be easy. I thought we could win, but it would be a fight,” Corbin said. “We had to go all four quarters or they would come back on us.”
When Cole put back a miss a minute into the fourth quarter, Tom Bean’s lead was 20 points. Era was not about to go quietly and The Lady Hornets used a half-court trap that helped chip away at the deficit — the Lady Tomcats had 11 turnovers in the fourth and Era was turning them into points.
Bailee Bowden made a three as part of a quick 7-2 burst which included the last Tom Bean basket of the game, a layin from Lind with 5:18 remaining. The final five Tom Bean points came at the line and all of them were needed.
Back-to-back steals led to layins from Franklin, who scored nine points in the fourth.
The Lady Cats were still up by double figures with a minute-and-a half to go but Franklin came up with another steal and converted the three-point play with 1:18 remaining.
Tom Bean was now up just nine and it was the first time Era was within single digits since 23-15 with 3:07 to go in the second quarter.
The Lady Hornets hurt their chances at completing the comeback by missing five free throws in the closing stretch and Tom Bean was able to hang on after the lead was down to seven with 14 seconds left.
Warren made both free throws in a one-and-one situation with eight seconds on the clock to seal the win.
It looked like the Lady Tomcats were going to cruise after their strong start to the third quarter pumped the lead to 19.
The 9-0 run saw Lowing notch a pair of buckets, Lind score underneath and Pennell add a basket and a free throw.
Lowing and Pennell connected from beyond the arc in the latter stages of the stanza and even though Tom Bean went scoreless for the final 2:41 and Era got a three-point play by Bowden before Haseloff hit a jumper with 20 seconds left, the Lady Cats were still up 18 going to the fourth.
Era found its footing during the second quarter after a shaky start but didn’t put much of a dent into Tom Bean’s lead. The margin was eight twice, the latter time with just over three minutes to go until the break.
Both times Tom Bean answered to push the gap back to double digits. Bri Yale and Lowing each had three-pointers during the stretch and the Lady Tomcats held a 28-18 half-time advantage.
Tom Bean didn’t show any nerves for a group in its postseason debut. Pennell led the charge with a pair of three-pointers and another basket as the Lady Cats were up 10-4 by the middle of the first quarter and in the process of taking an 18-5 lead after the opening stanza.
Class 2A Region II
Tom Bean 56