After a dismal 16-percent shooting effort in the District 5-4A opener, the No. 9 Brownwood Lady Lions found their touch on offense — and never more was it needed in a victory this season.
Despite allowing the most points in a game since their Region I-4A tournament loss to Midland Greenwood on Feb. 26, 2016, the Lady Lions managed to even their district record with a 73-62 triumph over the Sweetwater Lady Mustangs Tuesday night at Warren Gym.
“It was important for us to bounce back after our district-opening loss, not that it was pretty, but a win's a win,” said Lady Lions head coach Heather Hohertz, whose team fell to No. 12 Abilene Wylie, 52-29, on Friday night. “Our offense was back on track a little bit, not that we shot the ball behind the arc very well, but we did a good job attacking the basket, finishing our layups and getting out in transition. But defensively, I don't think we did a very good job tonight.”
The Lady Lions (23-4, 1-1) led throughout the contest, but were never able to run away from Sweetwater (7-16, 0-1).
“Sweetwater has four players on the team from last year, so they still have that intensity,” Hohertz said. “They're a scrappy bunch that doesn't give in and they played hard, but we have to fix our defense.”
After scoring just 29 points — and 17 through three quarters — Friday, the Lady Lions put 24 points on the board in the first quarter to open an 11-point lead after one stanza. The Lady Lions, who converted only a trio of three-pointers and nine shots total against Abilene Wylie Friday, drained four treys and eight shots in the opening frame against Sweetwater. Brownwood maintained a double-digit cushion throughout most of the remainder of the contest.
“I told them if we miss a shot, we can't hang our heads, we have to have a short-term memory and keep firing away,” Hohertz said in regard to the quick start. “I thought we responded on the offensive end, we had four people in double digits and that's where we want to be. But defensively, we can't give up 62 points.”
Four Lady Lions finished in double figures, led by Sage Cupps with 22 points, Taytum Sutton and Mallory Garcia with 16 apiece and Ryleigh Dalleh with 14 points. Kenya Barnes chipped in three points and Hadley Monroe added two.
Dalleh scored 10 points to lead the charge in the first period while Garcia led the scoring with seven points in the second period as Brownwood owned a 37-26 halftime cushion. The Lady Lions' lead after three quarters stood at 53-40 with Sutton and Cupps tallying seven points apiece.
“Taytum texted me on Saturday after our loss said 'Coach, I'm never going to be embarrassed like that again,' and she really responded tonight in a big way,” Hohertz said.
In the fourth period, however, three Lady Lions fouled out — Sutton, Garcia and Barnes — and Sweetwater went on to make 9 of 11 free throws in the final period, and 18 of 25 for the game. But Brownwood kept the Lady Mustangs at arm's length by draining 11 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter, including 9 of the last 10 attempts.
Cupps stepped up with 11 points during the last quarter, filling the scoring void caused by the absences of Sutton and Garcia — who was suffering from concussion-type symptoms after hitting her head on the court following her fifth foul.
Sweetwater trimmed what was a 17-point lead, 59-42, with 6:22 left, down to nine points, 61-52, with three minutes to go. But Cupps drained a trey to push the lead by back to double figures at the 2:48 mark and Dalleh added a pair of free throws with 2:22 to go as Brownwood swung the momentum back in its favor with a 66-52 advantage.
“Sage let the game come to her, she didn't force shots like she has been of late,” Hohertz said. “She distributed the ball well and when she got the open shots she knocked them down. When Mallory fouled out she stepped up and made some big shots.”
For the game, Brownwood shot 39 percent (22 of 57), including 27 percent (7 of 26) from three-point land, while converting 70 percent (22 of 31) of its free throws. The Lady Lions grabbed 27 rebounds, far fewer than Sweetwater, but Brownwood turned the ball over just 12 times while forcing 21 turnovers, including 14 on steals.
The Lady Lions' first district bye falls Friday, then Brownwood ventures to Big Spring on Tuesday, Jan. 16.