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Clutch three-pointer propels Lady Lions to fast start

Lady Lions sharpen skills in Mansfield tourney
With a couple of district victories already under their belt, the Lady Lions entered the land of heavyweights on Monday.
Ennis (14-4) hit the road to compete in the Mansfield Rotary Invitational, where a variety of state-ranked teams were on hand to wage war on the hardwood. The Lady Lions played a pair of ballgames Monday with two more today and potentially a fifth contest on Wednesday.
Ennis opened up against the 5A Amarillo Sandies, which took third in the 2007 version of the tournament. It was a tight competitive ballgame from the start with Amarillo leading 21-20 at the half and then in a 32-32 affair through three. In the fourth quarter the Sandies went up by eight, yet the Lady Lions maintained their composure for a spirited late charge.
With just 36 seconds left and Amarillo nursing a two-point lead, Ennis’ defense managed to produce a crucial turnover as the Lady Lions looked to at least tie the game up.
“We were running a play for Sharna [Polk] off a ball screen, but when we reversed the ball to Ashley [Lewis] she was wide open at the top of the key,” said coach David Kilpatrick.
“Without hesitation she raised up and swished a three-pointer to put us in front with 10 seconds left.”
Amarillo ended up missing a desperation three at the buzzer as Ennis emerged with the clutch morning win. The Sandies have a good record this season and strong basketball tradition, so it’s no surprise Kilpatrick was quite pleased to see his team pull the game out.
“The girls hit some big shots in the fourth quarter,” the coach said.
“Ashley has a good shot and can knock down a wide-open look like that. I was really happy for her.”
Polk (12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and Lewis (11 points, 8 rebounds) each scored in double figures for Ennis. Other primary contributors included Emily Rejcek (8 points, rebound, 3 steals), Latericka Cox (4 points) and Calleigh Morales (4 points). Brittney Washington, Allie Rokas, Hannah Farris and Tricie Fielder each scored two for Ennis.
“Latericka stepped in for Tina [Anderson] and did a nice job,” Kilpatrick said.
“Calleigh came in during the second quarter and had some good minutes running the lane on the fast break. This was a confidence booster because we knew the competition would be really stiff in this tournament.
“There are teams who come here and leave without any victories. We were glad to get that first one out of the way, but obviously it doesn’t get any easier.”

Lady Lions face toughest challenge to date
The coach certainly wasn’t kidding, because the Lady Lions’ afternoon ballgame matched them up with the Galena Park North Shore Mustangs – the No. 14-ranked team in 5A. Ennis managed to hang around into the third quarter, but the game got away from the Lady Lions in the second half against their toughest opponent to date in a 62-39 loss. While Ennis drew within eight points on several occasions, the skilled athletic group from Houston always had an answer.
“Beyond being a state-ranked 5A team, North Shore is very athletic and hard to stop because they can break you down off the dribble,” Kilpatrick said.
“They did a good job of that in the second half. For the first half and part of the third quarter, I thought we did a good job of getting in the zone [defense] and slowing them down a little bit.
“We were forcing missed shots just like we’d hoped to cut the deficit down several times, but we started to give them multiple shots from offensive rebounds and it killed us. If we’d rebounded the ball better, we would’ve been in that game in the fourth quarter.”
To the coach’s point, the Lady Lions managed just 10 rebounds in the entire second half after nine boards in the opening quarter alone. The stats also provided evidence of North Shore’s ability to protect the ball. While the Lady Lions have cleared 20 steals in a game on a variety of occasions this season, they could only manage seven in the loss with no blocks.
Though it proved not to be nearly enough, Ennis received balanced scoring from Rejcek (7 points, 8 rebounds, assist, steal), Polk (7 points, rebound, 3 assists, steal), Lewis (7 points, 4 rebounds, steal), Anderson (6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, steal) and Rokas (6 points, 4 rebounds, assist).
Ennis made some nice plays early to hang tight as Washington grabbed an offensive rebound and assisted Lewis on a layup before Polk buried a wing three off an Anderson assist. North Shore meant business, however, as it drilled a pair of early threes and quickly showed the ability to put up points on the fast break.
“Their length and quickness created a lot of deflections and steals,” the coach said.
“We didn’t take care of the ball well enough; when we missed shots North Shore got the rebound and was off to the races.”
Late in the quarter, Polk fired a long pass to Rejcek for a transition layup. Rokas managed to score in the opening quarter off the bench as she used a good shot fake to pave the way for a driving layup. Still, the Mustangs were piling up fast-break points for a 19-10 lead after one.
“Sharna has been seeing the floor well and making the right pass,” Kilpatrick said.
“She’s handling the pressure better when teams press us, which has been a big help. We did some good things in spurts, but that won’t get it done against a team of that caliber.”
The second quarter played host to Ennis’ best defensive effort of the game without question. That might not have seemed to be the case early, however, as the Mustangs came out on an 8-5 run with a putback and six other points as a result of their fast break. Lewis hit a pair of free throws and Anderson scored inside off a Polk inbounds pass, but Kilpatrick didn’t like what he saw and thus called a timeout.
Better transition defense in the moments that followed made it seem as if Ennis might be able to win the quarter as Polk found Rejcek inside for two and then hit a pair of free throws. A quartet of missed free throws in the frame would hurt the cause, however, as did a sequence in the final seconds where North Shore pulled down several offensive rebounds in succession and drilled a corner three to regain all the momentum (30-19).
“Tonight I think we were content trying to outjump people instead of boxing out and that’s not good enough against North Shore,” Kilpatrick said.
“If we’d have done a better job at the free-throw line, we could’ve been right there at the half. The ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
The Lady Lions made a final push early in the third with three points and a steal from Lewis, while a short Anderson jumper off a steal made for a 32-24 ballgame. North Shore would show why it’s one of the state’s better 5A teams from there with a wing three-pointer that sparked an 8-0 surge to put the game away.
Turnover trouble was eating Ennis up as Kilpatrick subbed his entire starting five out of the game. Rokas did her best to make something happen with a driving bankshot and a couple of free throws at the end of the third (46-30).
“We got within eight again, but I just don’t think our focus was there and the turnover bug bit us when we weren’t even getting pressured,” Kilpatrick said.
“I just subbed everybody out to try to send a message that we have to pick it up.”
North Shore continued to play at a high level offensively in the last quarter with a variety of short jumpers and dribble moves toward the hoop. Farris did well to get on the board in the final moments as she drained a long jumper and Te’Andrea Coleman maintained her intensity with two of her four-total rebounds.
“Te’Andrea has to give us some minutes at the five [position] where she’s working hard on the boards,” Kilpatrick said.
“We don’t ask her to score a lot and she knows her role, but her shot has improved this year.”

Games only get
bigger this week
The Lady Lions are headed back to the tourney today for games at 9:45 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ennis’ big-picture focus is all about preparing for Friday’s 6:30 p.m. home district contest with Waco High – the No. 17-ranked 4A team in Texas.
“Now we get Ft. Worth Dunbar [in the morning], who played No. 7 (5A Mansfield) Summit to a one-point game,” Kilpatrick said.
“At this point, we have to concentrate on what will make us better for Waco High on Friday. We’ll have a size advantage in that game, so our top priority has to be rebounding and obviously taking better care of the ball as well.”

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Posted by on Dec 30 2008. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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