STEPHENVILLE — The Bangs Lady Dragons improved from two wins in district a season ago to the second round of the playoffs this year.
But Thursday night, second-year head coach Niki Holt’s squad ran into a buzz saw in the No. 25 Bowie Lady Rabbits, who ousted Bangs, 76-52, in Region I-2A area playoff action at Tarleton State University’s Wisdom Gym.
“It was all the girls,” Holt said of the Lady Dragons’ turnaround this season. “They absolutely worked their tail ends off. They did everything I could have asked for and more. I came back with basically the same team from last year, and the improvements they’ve made have been hands down amazing.”
After an up and down start to the season, the last five losses for District 6-2A third seed Bangs (17-15) came at the hands of state-ranked foes — twice in district to both No. 7 Wall and No. 8 Jim Ned, and Thursday’s contest against Bowie.
Bangs fell in a 22-12 hole after one quarter against Bowie, was down 42-29 at halftime and was staring at a 55-42 deficit starting the fourth period.
The Lady Dragons committed 21 turnovers and posts Kady Kyle and Haley Pitts both got into foul trouble early, which hindered Bangs’ chances. Bowie (23-6) wound up going to the free throw line 31 times, converting 23 attempts.
After missing its first free throw attempt, Bangs sank 11 in a row to end the first half. In the final two quarters, however, the Lady Dragons converted only 6 of 13 shots from the charity stripe.
“I have no regrets about this game. My girls came out and played very hard,” Holt said. “We had some turnovers when we didn’t need to, and we got into some foul trouble, but (Bowie) just didn’t miss.
“For not having gotten physical like this before, I thought we handled it extremely well. But having Haley and Kady in foul trouble, especially Kady and her potential 15 points we didn’t have on the floor, was really tough.”
Kinsie Ward racked up a game-high 23 points to pace the Lady Dragons followed by nine points from Chelsy Lipsey, six from Pitts, four each from Kyle and Liz Pettit, three from Raelee Francois, two from Callie Sprowls and one point from Masey Tongate.
For Bowie, Courtney Brady generated 21 points followed by 13 apiece from Madison Wallace and Logan McMurray, seven each from Brittney Pound and Haylie Bell, six from Madison Little, five from River Romine, three from Lily Gill and one point from Addy Cook.
Trailing 34-21 with 4:24 left in the first half, Bangs strung together six consecutive points — its longest run of the game — to close the gap to 34-27 with 3:07 left before halftime.
Ward, Kyle and Lipsey contributed two points each during the surge.
Bowie, however, responded with an 8-2 run to end the first half and regain its double-digit lead.
In the third period, Bangs trailed 54-36 with 3:07 left, but finished the quarter with six of the last seven points, including a three-pointer at the buzzer banked in by Ward.
The Lady Rabbits then started the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run, stretching the lead to 22 points, 66-44 with 5:19 left, which ended any shot of a Bangs rally.
Bowie advances to face either Cisco or Jim Ned — who square off at 6 p.m. tonight in Merkel — in the regional quarterfinal round next week.