EARLY — Lady Horn post Aubrey Horton dominated in the paint and the Lady Lions’ varsity inexperience showed as Early chalked up a 47-41 victory over Brownwood in the season opener for both teams Tuesday night.
Horton recorded a game-high 23 points for Early — which overcame 30 turnovers unofficially — to start the season 1-0.
“Aubrey’s big for us,” said Lady Horns head coach Kristi Sandoval. “She does a lot of good things and she’s big inside and moves really well. We got her a lot of good looks inside.”
K.J. Elkins chipped in nine points for the Lady Horns, trailed by six from Emily Harris, four from Sydni Thompson, two each from Hanna Sweatman and Chelsea Johnston and one point from Janae Williams.
“That was a big confidence booster for us,” Sandoval said of the victory. “Brownwood is always a tough team and Keeta (Vacarro) is a very good player and we did a really good job of shutting her down tonight. Defense was big for us.”
The Lady Lions — who return just one significant contributor from a three-time defending bi-district championship squad — expect growing pains early on as the majority of the roster took part in its very first varsity contest.
“We don’t have a lot of varsity experience and that showed down the stretch,” said Lady Lions head coach Heather Hohertz. “We turned the ball over too much and didn’t execute, but I’m really proud of their effort. They fought back after being down and that’s a positive we can take from this and move forward.”
Kacie New led the Lady Lions with 11 points followed by nine from Ashley Vaccaro, seven from Keeta Vaccaro, five from Cherita George, four from Unique Jefferson, three from Delaney Hutson and two points from Cassandra Mendez.
“We shot better from 3-point land than we did at the free throw line and with two-pointers, so we have to get better at that,” Hohertz said. “We also need to get better at blocking out and offensive execution, but that will come with more experience.”
Tied at 9 after one quarter, the Lady Horns built a 27-17 halftime lead as Early outscored Brownwood 13-4 over the initial 6:43 of the second period. Horton accounted for nine of Early’s points during the spurt and the Lady Lions committed seven turnovers in the quarter.
“I liked our defense,” said Sandoval, whose team created 21 turnovers unofficially. “We really stepped up on defense and played well. On offense, we still have a lot to work on. We missed some easy baskets and we were a little out of control. We’d get a steal and turn it right back over. We have to play with more composure.”
Early’s lead peaked at 12 points, 29-17, 41 seconds into the second half on a bucket by Horton before Brownwood began to rally.
A three-pointer by New capped a 10-2 Brownwood surge that trimmed Early’s lead to 31-27 with 4:06 left in the third period.
New drained another trey during the final minute of the quarter as the Lady Lions reduced the Lady Horns’ edge to 35-32 heading into the fourth period.
Jefferson went down with a knee injury for the Lady Lions in the opening minute of the final quarter, and Early responded with nine straight points to regain a 12-point advantage, 44-32, with 2:24 to go.
“Unique was playing really well before she got hurt,” Hohertz said. “That was a big turn of events but hopefully it’s nothing major and she’ll be back in a few weeks.”
Added Sandoval, “We’ve always had problems panicking when teams come back a little, but we did a good job of handling it. We actually settled down and got in a little rhythm and the defense stepped up.”
Brownwood will host Marble Falls at 3:30 p.m. Saturday while Early welcomes Stephenville at 1:15 p.m.