BRECKENRIDGE — The Brownwood Lady Lions built a double-digit halftime advantage behind their trademark stingy defense and plenty of offensive struggles by the Decatur Lady Eagles. But by the end of Tuesday night's Region I-4A girls basketball bi-district playoff, the cold shooting had shifted to Brownwood, while Decatur heated up on its way to a 40-28 victory.
The Lady Lions (19-13), the runners-up from District 7-4A, led 14-5 after one quarter and 20-10 at the break. But an eight-point second half, coupled with the improved offense by District 8-4A third seed Decatur (28-7), ended Brownwood's 11th consecutive postseason appearance in the opening round.
“Our effort was pretty good, probably the best you could ask for,” said Lady Lions 11th-year head coach Heather Hohertz. “We came out hot the first two quarters and we got too comfortable and we couldn't finish in the second half.
They came out and pressed us like I thought they would in the first half. We prepared for it, we just didn't handle it and we got lazy with our passes.”
The Lady Lions committed 16 of their 25 turnovers in the second half, including 10 in the third period as Decatur turned a 10-point deficit into 26-24 lead by the end of the quarter.
“We talked at halftime that we have to get our defense set to be effective and we turned the ball over and had some long rebounds that ended up going their way for layups and that didn't help our cause,” Hohertz said. “I knew they were going to come out and hit some shots, but they didn't light us up three-point wise like I thought they would. I thought we did a good job covering the three-point line, we just went cold in second half and couldn't score.”
Matyha Thompson led the Lady Lions with 17 points, Hadley Monroe added four points, Catrina Fullerlove-Brooks tacked on three and Brooke Price and McKenzie Welker generated two points each.
For Decatur, Kylie Fitzgerald and Gracie Isham led the way with 10 points each trailed by Katie Hale with eight, Jentry Lamirand with five, Brison Hesteande with four and Grace Lowery with three points.
Brownwood opened a 14-5 lead after one quarter, thanks to 11 points from Thompson. Decatur went 7:32 without a bucket over the first and second quarters, before scoring on a deuce by Fitzgerald 3:46 into the second period.
The Lady Lions answered with a free throw from Thompson and an offensive putback by Price to open their first double-digit lead, 17-7, with 2:32 left in the half. Brownwood's largest lead, 19-8, occurred with 1:06 left in the second quarter on another Thompson bucket.
In the third period, the Lady Lions mustered just one point as Decatur reeled off a dozen to grab a 22-21 lead at the 3:02 mark. Thompson put the Lady Lions back ahead, 23-22, with 1:21 left in the quarter and tied the game at 24 on a free throw with nine seconds left.
Fitzgerald converted a short jumper at the buzzer, however, as Decatur took a 26-24 lead into the fourth quarter and pulled away.
Tuesday's game closed out the careers of Thompson, Monroe, Welker and Fullerlove-Brooks.
“If you would have told me at Thanksgiving that we would win 19 games I would have laughed,” Hohertz said. “But the girls really rallied around Christmas and into our hard district schedule. But not many teams have to a play team like Decatur, from such a good, tough district, in the first round.”