Gunter pulls away from Whitesboro to move on
CELINA — While the Lady Tigers have been using three-point barrages and strong post play for their desired results and goals achieved, perhaps it is their defense which might end up getting more attention during Gunter’s best playoff push in more than a decade.
The Lady Tigers are on a streak of holding opponents to under 40 points and they stretched that total to double digits after a 57-33 victory over Whitesboro in a Class 3A Region II area round match-up.
It is that effort — combined with the Lady Tigers’ willingness to spread the ball around — which earned an undefeated district title and now the program’s first appearance in the third round since 2008.
Gunter (24-5) will face Edgewood in the region quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Paris.
“It means a lot,” Gunter head coach Katie Stinton said. “These girls have a lot of pride, personal pride but they also take a lot of pride to be a Gunter Tiger. They take a lot of pride for getting this program back to a good place.”
Alyssa Tarpley had 14 of her 18 points in the second half while Taylor Boddie, Sarah Putnicki and Blakely Esnard all scored 11 points with Putnicki also grabbing eight rebounds for the Lady Tigers (24-5), who have won 12 straight.
Olivia Hildebrand had 10 points, five rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals, Libby Langford added seven points and Elly Harper chipped in six points for Whitesboro (17-11), which had its best season in three years and was trying to make the region quarterfinals for the first time since 2001.
The Lady Bearcats lose just two seniors — Harper and BreAnn Beste — from a roster that improved nine wins in five fewer games and went from tied for fifth to second in the district standings.
But the ran into the Lady Tigers’ balanced attack which helped the production along until Tarpley got going.
“It was only a matter of time,” Stinton said. “We’ve been doing that as of late — our other guards have started shooting the ball well. We need to keep that up.”
Even though Gunter struggled to reach double digits in the fourth quarter, the victory was largely in hand because the Lady Tigers were holding Whitesboro to the same 10-point total and the margin never dipped below 22 points.
A strong finish to the first half carried over into the third quarter. Gunter had a wraparound 17-0 run which saw Tarpley score to begin the second half and Boddie drilled a three-pointer as the margin pushed to almost 20 points.
It took nearly seven minutes for Whitesboro to make a shot — a stretch of 13-and-a-half minutes dating back to the second quarter — as the Lady Cats notched their first five points from the free-throw line until Harper’s layup with just over a minute left in the stanza.
By that time Gunter had built a 44-16 advantage which was boosted by a 10-0 run started on Rhyan Pogue’s three to go with consecutive baskets from Tarpley.
Boddie’s three-pointer in the final seconds of the third had Gunter sitting on a 47-23 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
After a sluggish first quarter, Gunter finally got going offensively while its defense almost came up with a shutout second quarter.
The Lady Tigers closed the first half on a 12-0 run which was powered by Boddie, who ended the surge with a steal and score in the final minute for a 26-12 advantage, and Esnard, who produced a three-pointer and followed that by coming away with a steal and driving to the hoop in the middle of the run.
“I think it was us adjusting to some different things than what they had shown on film,” Stinton said. “They were well prepared, well coached. When we started pressing a bit we started causing some problems.”
The Lady Bearcats went the final 6:34 of the quarter without a point after Muntz’s layin pulled Whitesboro to within two points.
Whitesboro led for nearly all of the first quarter with Langford leading the way by hitting three shots. Neither team came out sharp and the Lady Bearcats were up 2-1 midway through the frame when Putnicki had a steal and layin to put Gunter in front.
Skylar Brannan hit a three-pointer to give Whitesboro the lead right back and the Lady Bearcats nearly had the advantage at the end of the first but Esnard converted a three-point play with four seconds on the clock for a 10-9 advantage and the Lady Tigers never trailed again.
Class 3A Region II