A season full of ups and down finally leveled out for the Brownwood Lady Lions as four weekend wins allowed them to repeat as girls division champions of the TexasBank Holiday Classic.
After defeating Valley Mills (60-28) and Corsicana (43-13) Thursday, the Lady Lions — sparked by Classic MVP Matyha Thompson — tacked on a 43-31 comeback win over Abilene Cooper Saturday morning, then held off a late charge by Gatesville for a 44-38 triumph in the tournament championship game.
“We're finally playing to a consistent level and to our potential,” said Lady Lions head coach Heather Hohertz, whose team had not won more than two games in a row this season prior to the tournament. “I would still would like some other people step up and score so we didn't have to rely just on Matyha, but we played with a consistent effort and our defense was pretty sharp throughout the tournament.”
In Saturday's championship game against Gatesville, the Lady Lions were able to gradually build to a 38-19 lead with 5:49 remaining before the Lady Hornets caught fire down the stretch.
Ainsley Warren, who did not score in the first three quarters, finished with a team-high 12 points — all in the fourth quarter. Warren's hot hand, coupled with costly turnovers and poor free throwing shooting in the fourth period almost resulted in Brownwood coughing up the lead.
Gatesville closed the gap to four points, 41-37, with 45 seconds left and again at 42-38 with 26 seconds to go, but Brownwood was able to maintain a two-possession advantage down the stretch.
“Throughout the whole game I kept reminding them it doesn't matter if you're tired, it doesn't matter if you're hurting, you have to focus,” Hohertz said. “We got a little fatigued there in the fourth quarter and missed our free throws. I told them again we had to focus right there because we have to be able to put games like that away. We got to the line as much as we should, but our percentage wasn't that good and that's just a lack of focus, same as with the turnovers.”
Thompson led Brownwood with 17 points and was aided by seven from McKenzie Welker, six from Lindsey Larose, five from Brooke Price, four from Jaylen Savage, three from Alexa Arreola and two points from Catrina Fullerlove-Brooks.
“I told them in the locker room that everybody did a good job, everybody stepped up a little bit,” Hohertz said. “I had to pull Matyha for a while in the second quarter and Jaylen stepped up and had two big buckets and Lindsey got some offensive rebounds and putbacks. Everybody has to do their job to be successful and pull out a win.”
Along with 12 points from Warren, Allaiya Jones scored 11 for Gatesville followed by six from Caitlin Chacon, five from Josie Boyd, and four from Marlee Ward.
To reach the championship, the Lady Lions had to overcome a five-point first quarter and eight-point first-half deficit in their victory over Cooper.
After trimming to deficit to 17-16 at halftime, the Lady Lions scored the first 14 points of the second half to grab a 30-17 advantage at the 4:05 mark of the third quarter. Welker drained a three-pointer to put Brownwood in front, Thompson contributed the next eight points then Arreola knocked down a trey to cap the run.
“They went man to man a little bit and we just utilized our post play and got to the rim,” Hohertz said of the third quarter run.
Brownwood owned a 34-24 lead at the end of the third period and Cooper got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Thompson finished with 31 points, including 14 of Brownwood's 16 points in the first half.
“She's a competitor and she doesn't like to lose,” Hohertz said of Thompson. “She's ready when it's time for her to step up. She had 31 this morning and 17 this afternoon. She was banged up, bruised and hurting a little bit but she sucked it up. Big time players have to step up in big time games.”
Arreola added four points, Welker finished with three, Fullerlove-Brooks and Hadley Monroe tallied two points apiece and Larose sank a free throw.
For Abilene Cooper (16-7), Dazz Larkins led the way with 13 points followed by Keiana Kemp with eight.
The Lady Lions (12-9) and Gatesville (13-8) will meet again at 3 p.m. Friday in Gatesville in the next outing for Brownwood.