AZLE — The Glen Rose Lady Tigers’ exciting 39-34 girls basketball playoff loss to Argyle Monday in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals may have had fans, players and coaches thinking it should have been for the state championship if not the regional title.
Even Argyle’s Lady Eagles — seeking an incredible sixth consecutive state title — may have been feeling the same way as they hung on to advance for a seventh consecutive year to the Region I-4A tournament, Feb. 28-29 at Lubbock Christian University. Argyle will play No. 1-ranked Canyon (26-1) at 5 p.m. Friday in the regional semifinals.
Glen Rose took a 6-0 lead early in the first contest, and was up 8-2 before the Lady Eagles pulled within 8-6 going into the second quarter using their suffocating defensive press.
Argyle continued its surge in the second quarter, taking a 14-8 lead, and held a 20-16 edge at halftime. The Lady Eagles, now 30-6 on the season, never relinquished the lead in the second half. But it was obvious that hearts were beating rapidly on both sides the rest of the way, thoroughly entertaining the loud, cheering crowds on both sides of Azle High School’s gym.
Monday’s loss ended the high school careers of the the three GRHS senior players — Kora Dodson, Bree Baker and Hailey Ibarra. Ghazal noted that as varsity players, the trio played a part in 122 Lady Tiger basketball victories over the last four seasons.
“We all fought hard. We put all we had out there,” Dodson said, noting that it will be difficult leaving the group behind now that the season is over. “We’re really close. We all grew up together, best friends. It’s going to be tough leaving each other.”
The two squads entered the contest side-by-side in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 4A state rankings — Argyle at No. 5, Glen Rose at No. 6.
The Lady Tigers had sent a message earlier this season that they could compete with the Lady Eagles. They took Argyle to double overtime on Dec. 12 in the semifinals of the Midlothian Heritage tournament on Dec. 12 before falling by a 35-30 margin.
“We knew we were equal teams with them,” said senior Bree Baker, who scored eight of her team-high 10 points in the first quarter. “I know that our team put in as much effort as their team did — it’s just all of our shots didn’t fall.”
Ibarra, already a two-time all-state performer, said, “I think we played them pretty equally. They ended up getting more shots than we did. We already knew they were beatable and we could play with them. We knew how they played and what it was like so we just had to come in there again, I guess more fired up and wanting to win.”
It marked another remarkable season for coach Ramsey Ghazal’s District 7-4A champion Lady Tigers, who finished with a 30-7 record.
“There’s no words to express how proud and happy I am with them,” Ghazal said. “They’ve done everything the coach could ask for. They battled, they worked.
“This game could have even been played in the state tournament. They made the most of it. They got to this game, and they gave themselves a really good chance to win it.”
Ghazal said that a few turnovers and free throws helped make the difference for Argyle.
“They’re well-coached,” Ghazal said. “It’s a good program and they put themselves in these positions. I thought we turned it over a little too much on the press, and, seven fouls to two in the fourth, they get some more free throws than we can get and you’re down three late, that’s kind of the difference. But again, that’s just the way basketball goes sometimes, and we fought really hard. Super proud of our effort.”
Other scorers for the Lady Tigers were Ibarra with seven points, junior Jeana Douglas, sophomore Hazel Hawkins and Dodson with five each, and junior Lindsay Andress with two.
Both teams scored nine points in the third quarter, but Argyle gained a 27-18 lead by the 3:31 mark. Glen Rose rallied to within four, at 29-25 entering the final quarter.
The Lady Tigers were down by just three (32-29) with just over five minutes left in the game, and got within one (32-31) with four and a half minutes remaining. Argyle then went on a 5-0 run to expand its lead to 37-31 with 13 seconds left in the game.
Douglas buried a 3-point shot from the top of the key with five seconds left before Argyle’s Rhyle McKinney hit two free throws — giving her eight of eight from the line on the night — to seal the win.
Argyle hit seven 3-point buckets in the game, including three from Abby Williams. McKinney was the game’s top scorer, with 17 points.