The last time the Brownwood Lady Lions and Stephenville Honeybees crossed paths, head coach Heather Hohertz’s squad collected a 48-42 victory in Hamilton to earn the program’s first trip to the Region I-4A tournament.
A year later, District 5-4A champion Brownwood and District 8-4A runner-up Stephenville clash again, this time in Region I-4A area round action at Hamilton High School at 6 p.m. Friday. At stake is a berth in the regional quarterfinal round against District 8-4A third seed Glen Rose, a 63-54 winner over 6-4A champion Burkburnett Thursday night.
The No. 15 Lady Lions (24-8) are fresh off a 36-19 bi-district victory over Iowa Park Tuesday night, while No. 10 Stephenville (24-7) routed Springtown, 64-25, in first-round playoff action Monday. The Honeybees finished second to No. 4 Godley (30-4) in the 8-4A standings, while Brownwood earned its first-ever outright district championship.
“Stephenville has a rich tradition and is good year in and year,” Hohertz said. “This year they’re playing extremely hard and have multiple weapons. We are going to have to defend their shooters and contain their slashers. We are going to have to handle their pressure and be able to put the ball in the basket.”
Against Springtown, the Honeybees received 19 points from Jayci Morton and 11 from Hailey Martin. Stephenville opened a 15-4 lead after one quarter that stood at 31-17 at halftime and 48-21 through three periods.
The Lady Lions are in the midst of a nine-game win streak as Brownwood, which returned just one starter from last year’s squad in point guard Mallory Garcia, began to hit its stride after the Christmas break.
“We struggled with our team chemistry and how to play hard on every possession,” Hohertz said of the Lady Lions’ early inconsistency. “When we started district our focus became a lot better and we gelled as a team. We started playing to our potential and playing hard every possession.”
Since the start of the 2017 calendar year the Lady Lions are undefeated. Defense has always been the backbone of Brownwood’s success since Hohertz’s arrival and this season is no different. Over the last nine games, the Lady Lions have allowed an average of just 29 points per contest, with five foes mustering 25 points or less — including the last three.
“Our defense has stepped up a notch and is playing where we need to be,” Hohertz said. “We have learned that we can’t take a play off and we have done a better job of rebounding and limiting teams to one shot.”
Offensively, Brownwood is generating 49 points per game, led by Sage Cupps (12 points per game), Garcia (11 ppg), Ryleigh Dalleh (7 ppg), Tyanne Stewart (5 ppg), Sadie Smith (4 ppg) and Taytum Sutton (4 ppg). The Lady Lions are particularly dangerous beyond the three-point arc knocking down 204 treys, or 30 percent of their attempts from long range.
Against Iowa Park, however, the Lady Lions were held 13 points below their season average. Facing the weapons Stephenville presents offensively, Brownwood must avoid another cold shooting night from the floor to have a chance to advance to the third round.
“We are going to have to take what the defense gives us and we’re going to have to be able to hit our shots,” Hohertz said.
Hohertz attributed some of the Lady Lions’ offensive struggles against Iowa Park to jitters. Playing in front of a packed house — especially with the Brownwood-Stephenville boys playoff warm-up game to immediately follow — calm nerves will be critical.
“I thought for the most part we got the nerves out on Tuesday but this game will be on another level,” Hohertz said. “We are going to have handle the environment and be able to communicate and play relaxed.”