HAMILTON — Offensive struggles — both from the field as well as the free throw line — resulted in an earlier end to the season than usual for the May Lady Tigers Friday night.
Seeking a return trip to regional tournament action, District 18-A champion May — ranked No. 10 by the Texas Girls Coaches Association — was instead ousted in the Region III-A area round, 37-28, by the Lipan Lady Indians — ranked No. 11 by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
“The free throw line is what hurt us,” said May head coach Jeff Blackburn. “We're usually a lot better from the free throw line and we had two girls that combined to go 3 of 16. You can't win a close game like that.”
Overall, the Lady Tigers (26-5) converted just 8 of 25 free throws, but Lipan (31-5) didn't fare much better by sinking only 6 of 17 attempts. However, the Lady Indians did sink four of their final five tries during the fourth period.
“We played pretty solid defense, we rebounded pretty well, but it all came down to opportunities at the free throw line and we didn't make them,” Blackburn said.
Kaylee Harris led May with 12 points followed by Kyndi Kilgo with eight, Kelsey Chambers with four, Reese Chambers with three and Roberta Robinette with one point.
Lipan received 15 points from Taylor Clark and Maggie Peacock also finished in double figures with 10 points — including eight in the third period alone.
May led 7-5 late in the first period, but Clark drilled a three-pointer right before the before that ignited an 8-0 run for Lipan, which opened a 13-7 lead with 6:18 left in the first half. The Lady Tigers eventually closed the gap to 15-14 — aided by a three-pointer and two-point putback from Harris, and free throws from Robinette and Kilgo. Still, Lipan carried a 17-15 lead into halftime.
The Lady Tigers appeared poised to wrestle away the momentum as Kilgo and Harris knocked down consecutive three-pointers with 5:32 left in the third, as May opened its first lead — 23-21— since late in the first quarter.
Just 1:24 later, Harris was whistled for her fourth foul at the 4:18 mark and took a seat on the bench. May did not score again until Harris returned to the floor and drained a pair of free throws with 6:16 left in the contest. The Lady Tigers generated just five points over the final 13:32.
“That took our momentum away whenever (Kaylee) got her fourth foul,” Blackburn said. “She's our leader and go to person and when she's in foul trouble we tend to struggle a little bit.”
Harris' free throws trimmed the deficit to 28-25, but Clark answered with a trey — her first points of the second half — for Lipan, which matched its largest lead to that point, 31-25, with 4:59 left.
May recorded its final bucket with 3:14 to go as Reese Chambers scored on a drive to close the gap to 31-27. But the Lady Tigers mustered just one more free throw from Reese Chambers the rest of the way, as Lipan finished with a 6-1 spurt.
“Our girls played hard and with great effort, but Lipan made a few more shots and free throws at the end and deserved to win,” Blackburn said. “It was a great season and you never want it to end. We had a great year with some great kids and the seniors won district four years in a row, so they've had a pretty good run.”