No. 6 Brownwood to face Nolan Catholic in Saturday's battle of pool runners-up

The No. 6 Brownwood Lady Lions bounced back from just their third loss of the season and eclipsed with the 20-win mark with victories over Millsap and Abilene Cooper Friday at the Brownwood Coliseum in the TexasBank Holiday Classic.

On the heels of a 49-38 loss to Colorado City in which Brownwood converted just two field goals in the second half, the Lady Lions cruised past Millsap, 65-27, and followed with a 57-24 triumph over Abilene Cooper.

In the opener against Millsap, the Lady Lions led by just 11 points at halftime, 27-16, but caught fire again in the second half.

“At halftime I really challenged them to step up and make a shot,” said Lady Lions head coach Heather Hohertz. “We were shooting 15 percent on two-pointers and most of them were layups. I told them if your focus isn't there you're not going to make a shot, so you need to step up, get your heads right and make some shots. Even if you don't make it, keep shooting and have your head right and they really responded to that and got back to how we needed to play.”

The Lady Lions, who converted just two three-pointers in the first half, sank three in the initial 2:41 of the third quarter to extend the advantage to 20 points, 38-18. Ryleigh Dalleh, Mallory Garcia and Sage Cupps drained the treys, while Garcia also sank a pair of free throws during the 11-2 run.

Brownwood pushed the lead to 47-21 by the end of the third period, and the Lady Lions allowed just three points in the fourth quarter.

“I challenged them after the Colorado City game and again before the Millsap game and told them that in games where we aren't scoring, we're going to have to defend,” said Hohertz, whose team forced 34 turnovers against Millsap. “We tried to take away (Brittany Schnabel) as much as possible. She got some shots off in the first half but we adjusted. Energy-wise, effort-wise I thought we stepped up to the challenge better than we did against Colorado City.”

Dalleh paced the Lady Lions with 17 points trailed by Garcia with 15, Cupps with 13, Kenya Barnes with six, Taytum Sutton with five, Hadley Monroe with four, Daisy Green with three and Mya Wallace with two points.

Schnabel led Millsap with 12 points — all in the first half — including a trio of three-pointers.

In the win over Abilene Cooper, the Lady Lions led 10-0 after one quarter and didn't give up a point over the initial 8:32 of the contest.

“Our defense was very energized and rotating,” Hohertz said. “We were there every time they caught the ball. We did get a little fatigued in the second half but for the most part overall this was probably one of our better defensive games.”

Brownwood led 29-11 at the break and stretched the advantage to 45-13 after three periods.

“Our energy and effort was good after a long lay off,” Hohertz said. “I really challenged them in the locker room before the game to not let it be like last night, don't be flat, make sure the defense is rotating and energized. They really responded and we got on the floor more than we have all season and that was really fun to see.”

Cupps led the way offensively with 21 points followed by 10 each from Barnes and Garcia, eight from Dalleh, three each from Green and Wallace and two points from McKenzie Welker.

“As a team we really shared the ball,” Hohertz said. “We had 11 assists as a team, we found the kick outs and hit them. Mallory and Sage really saw the floor well and we performed in transition really well playing team ball. We didn't hit the layups like we needed to and we really need to work on that because we have to finish.”

The Lady Lions (21-3) finished second in their pool and will face Fort Worth Nolan Catholic in the third-place game at 3:10 p.m. Saturday at the Brownwood Coliseum.

Eclipsing the 20-win plateau prior to the new calendar year is another first for the Lady Lions program, but Hohertz stated the team is still searching for its identity.

“Each game we're getting closer but this team has been successful while we're still trying to figure each other out, and that's a plus,” Hohertz said.