Cupps scores 28 as Brownwood drains 10 three-pointers

Defense has been the calling card of the Brownwood Lady Lions basketball program since head coach Heather Hohertz took the reins, but in Tuesday’s season opener at Warren Gym it was the offense that stole the show.

Behind 10 three-pointers, 14 of 18 shooting from the free throw line and a 28-point performance by reigning District 5-4A MVP Sage Cupps, the Lady Lions blistered the Class 5A Granbury Lady Pirates, 77-49.

“We’ve been a good shooting team,” said Hohertz, who returns four starters from last year’s 24-9 district championship squad. “We were last year and I didn’t think this year would be any different. We had some wide open looks and they knocked them down, and that’s just the strength of our team.”

Cupps more than doubled her season average from a year ago of 12 points, scoring 16 in the first half alone as Brownwood built a 36-23 advantage at intermission.

“This is her last year and she knows she has to lead us on and off the court,” Hohertz said of Cupps, who drained five treys. “She did drive in a couple of times when we had some wide open looks. I thought offensively she gave us a spark and got us on a roll.”

Mallory Garcia and Ryleigh Dalleh also finished in double figures with 15 and 12 points, respectively, followed by Kenya Barnes with eight points, Taytum Sutton with seven, Daisy Green with four, Mya Wallace with two and McKenzie Welker with a free throw.

Brownwood got off to a slow start and trailed Granbury, 9-4, at the midway point of the first period, but closed the quarter with 10 of the final 12 points to open a 14-11 advantage.

“I thought we struggled a little bit in the first half,” Hohertz said. “One thing we’ve tried to focus on is blocking out and we really struggled with that the first three or four minutes. We had a good second quarter and came alive, and made a big run in the second half with our transition. Our outside shooting was really good tonight, too.”

Leading 20-13 in the second period, consecutive turnovers against Granbury’s full court pressure resulted in Brownwood’s lead dwindling to 20-17 at the 4:21 mark. However, the Lady Lions responded with 14 consecutive points — including nine on a trio of three-pointers, two from Cupps and one from Garcia — to establish a 34-17 cushion with 1:19 left before halftime.

“We shoot three-minute three-pointers, we do lots of drills with three-pointers, that’s just who we are,” Hohertz said. “It’s like the Golden State Warriors, those are our layups.”

The Lady Lions were able to open a double-digit halftime advantage despite a pair of starters — Dalleh and Sutton — battling foul trouble most of the game. Both picked up two fouls in the opening four minutes of the contest, and they each had three fouls well before halftime. Neither was able to escape the third period without a fourth foul, but they both avoided fouling out.

“Foul trouble really took Ryleigh out of the game,” Hohertz said. “She didn’t really get going until the game was out of control. She was frustrated, which she should be, but she came along in the fourth quarter and really helped us by hitting some big threes.

“Taytum is a big key for us, especially on the wing, and with her getting in foul trouble I had to risk it at the start of the fourth playing her with four fouls. But she did a really good job of playing smart and not fouling.”

Leading by 13 at halftime, the Lady Lions stretched their lead to 20 points, 45-25, at the 4:15 mark of the third period following a bucket from Garcia.

Granbury, led by 16 points from Mandy Withey, crept to within a dozen, 49-37, by the end of the third period.

The Lady Lions responded with a 10-2 spurt to start the fourth period, including treys from Dalleh and Cupps, to push the lead back to 20 points, 59-39, with 6:12 remaining.

Brownwood continued to pour on the points in the final stanza, with a trey from Dalleh giving the Lady Lions their largest lead, 72-41, with 3:09 to go.

The Lady Lions also converted 9 of 11 free throws in the second half, including 7 of 9 in the fourth period, to help pad their cushion. Meanwhile, Granbury was 9 of 23 from the charity stripe the entire game.

“Another thing we’ve been working on is free throws,” Hohertz said. “We work on them every day and we stepped up and hit them tonight. We didn’t get to the line as much as I would have liked, but we’re still going to work on attacking the basket.”

The Lady Lions (1-0) hit the road for the first time Friday as they visit Jim Ned at 5 p.m.