The Lady Tigers faced a worst-case scenario early in Friday’s game at state-ranked Stephenville, but Glen Rose never gave up and represented itself well down the stretch.
The Lady Tigers (17-7, 2-1) trailed 24-6 after one quarter, but steadily played better in a 56-44 loss to Stephenville – the No. 9 team in the TABC 3A rankings.
“We brought a lot of mental toughness just to show up (Friday),” coach Sheree Hill said. “We didn’t know if Reilly (Junge) would play until about 3:30 (p.m.), Madi (Gibson) and Madison Morrow were sick, but they were all ready to play. We played with a bunch of heart; I’m really proud of them. We didn’t have our wits about us at the beginning of the game, but after that I have no complaints.”
Kayla Goebel (14 PT, 9 RB, AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK) had a big fourth quarter to lead the Lady Tigers. Other scorers included Reilly Junge (7 PT, 5 RB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK), Destiny Ponce (7 PT, 5 RB, 2 AST), Shelby Rotan (6 PT, RB, 2 AST), Kelsey Potter (5 PT, 7 RB, AST, BLK) and Kate Goen (5 PT, RB).
After Rotan hit a wing three to open the game, Stephenville struck back with an 18-0 run before Rotan knocked down a corner three.
“Shelby played a great game with good shooting, defense and blocking out girls twice her size,” Hill said.
Led by torrid shooting from Merideth Culpepper, Stephenville hit five three-pointers in the first for the 24-6 lead.
“They couldn’t miss (from long range), but we just weren’t thinking at that point and maybe nerves were a factor,” Hill said. “A couple of times we didn’t know who we had defensively. (Culpepper) was nailing threes and that’s going to happen; you have to fight through that. You can’t get behind like that and play catch-up against Stephenville.”
Glen Rose began to play better in a second quarter it lost 17-12, although turnovers were a problem and the hosts usually capitalized. Ponce had an excellent quarter, scoring all seven of her points, including an and-one play.
“Destiny started attacking the basket and stepped up her defense as the game went,” Hill said. “She battled hard.”
Gibson drew a charge in the quarter, and late in the half Junge was able to complete an and-one play after a steal.
“I’m so proud of Reilly, maintaining focus even though she wasn’t sure she’d play,” Hill said. “She was a leader the whole time and didn’t lose her head against the adversity in this game.”
Regarding Glen Rose steadily closing the gap on the scoreboard as the game went, Hill pointed to handling the press-break better and reducing passes getting picked off for easy Stephenville baskets.
Stephenville won the third quarter just 11-9. After Goebel had grabbed five boards in the first quarter, Junge hauled in four in the third.
Glen Rose made four-straight trips to the free throw line in the middle of the quarter, led by Potter making three of four.
“We talked at halftime about having to take it to them (offensively) and get to the free-throw line,” Hill said. “Kelsey in particular did a nice job of repeatedly getting to the line; she really battled inside.”
After Junge hit a three to end the third, Goebel quickly made a three to open a fourth quarter Glen Rose won 17-4.
“I just wish we could’ve done that the whole game (defensively),” Hill said of the entire second half in which Stephenville scored 15 points.
After a couple of Stephenville free throws, Glen Rose went on a 14-0 run with Goebel playing lights-out. She hit two more threes, completed an and-one play, grabbed three rebounds, made two steals and blocked a shot.
“Kayla’s fourth quarter is what I’d love to see out of her for four quarters – just cut loose and get after it,” Hill said. “I got on her pretty hard in the third and she responded. The girls did exactly what they had to do – penetrating and kicking it out for threes with good shooting and rebounding. That will give them a lot of confidence going into the rematch.”
Junge was applying intense defensive pressure to fluster the Honeybees, but she also made her second block of the half on Stephenville’s best player.
“Bless her heart, Reilly was on a bum knee and ankle and hadn’t been able to work out,” Hill said. “You didn’t notice any of that and I admire what she was doing out there.”
The Lady Tigers are off Tuesday and will host Alvarado on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
“Thank goodness we don’t have a game Tuesday,” Hill said. “We can let Reilly heal up, get our sick ones well and get ready for Alvarado. That will be a tough one.”