On Dec. 3, the Howe Lady Bulldogs were beaten by Gunter 66-44 and their defensive execution and effort in that game took the brunt of the blame.
Fast forward through 10 days of going-to-Jesus practices and it was an entirely different Lady Bulldog team that traveled to Whitewright on Dec. 13 to open the 2013 district season.
Tenacious defense by the Lady Bulldogs was key in a 40-36 win as Howe overcame several obstacles on the way to the win column..
“The team’s attitude was better, the effort was better and that’s all we have been working on since the Gunter game,” said Howe Coach Derek Lands.
The improvement in team defense was evident early on and it was highlighted by the play of Aurian James who guarded Whitewright’s most athletic player, Sydney Brummett.
Brummett, one of the Lady Tigers’ top scorers, was held to just eight points in the game and just three in the second half.
“Auri’s defense was as good as it gets,” Lands said. “It helped that everybody else was stopping the back-screens and that let James do her stuff on a really good player.”
One obstacle the Lady Bulldogs had to overcome was the foul situation with standout player Riley Harvey. The sophomore forward was assessed her fourth foul with 1:08 left in the second quarter, and after Hatty Shope put up a 24-foot prayer that was answered at the buzzer, Whitewright had a 19-16 lead going to the break.
To the surprise of most, Harvey took the court to start the second half and played a couple of possessions before returning to the bench.
“I told her before we came back out that I was going to play her early.” Lands said. “They had scored at the end of the first half and we didn’t want them to get off to a good start and gain momentum in the second period.”
Lands admitted that it was a questionable move but mitigated by the basketball smarts of Harvey. The gamble paid off as Harvey finished out the game, scoring eight points in the fourth quarter, to help get the Lady Bulldogs off to a positive start in league play.
Harvey’s absence was tempered by the step-up in play of sophomore post Holly Hawkins. She scored six points in the third quarter and made a pair of critical defensive plays in the fourth. Hawkins finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for the night.
Howe 7 9 10 14 — 40
Whitewright 8 11 5 12 — 36
Howe: Holly Hawkins 13, Riley Harvey 12, Alissa Smith 8, Aurian James 4, Darci Foster 2, Morgan Carney 1.
Howe 57, Pottsboro 53
Maybe the theme for the Lady Bulldogs season should be”next girl up.”
One night after the teams’ impressive win over Whitewright, Howe turned to sophomore guard Darci Foster whose two key free throws with just nine seconds left paved the way for the Lady Bulldogs’ 57-53 win over Pottsboro in Howe.
This game, iced out from its scheduled Tuesday night date, was a see-saw thriller with both teams making runs that were quickly answered.
Howe had a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, one by Foster, the other by Alissa Smith, but Pottsboro answered with a pair of treys, the last by Kelli Frye which gave the Lady Cardinals a 17-13 lead after one.
The Lady Bulldogs went on an 11-1 run to open the second quarter to take a 24-18 lead. Aurian James jumped into the passing lane to get a steal early in the period, taking it coast-to-coast for a basket. After a Holly Hawkins basket, Foster sent in her second 3-ball of the contest, and a Riley Harvey basket gave Howe a six-point advantage.
The Lady Cards bounced back, getting a late three from Jordan Slagle, and the teams went to the break with Howe on top, 25-24.
After James had scored, moving her defender with a ball-fake, Morgan Carney put back an offensive rebound to push the Lady Bulldog lead to seven.
The visitors rallied, getting a 3-pointer from Macie O’Hanlon and another by Justus Malone to get back in the game.
With Hawkins forced to the bench with foul problems, it was senior Makenzie Duffee’s time to step up. Duffee, who did not get off the bench the previous night in Whitewright, was ready to play. The lefty nailed a 3-pointer to stop the Pottsboro run and later scored from down low to cut into a Pottsboro lead. A 3-pointer by Smith tied the game at 39-39, and baskets by Smith and Harvey gave Howe a 43-39 lead going into the final frame.
A basket by Harvey then her old-school, 3-point play gave Howe its biggest lead in the contest, 49-40. Things got tense as Pottsboro came roaring back with three baskets from beyond the arc and with 2:35 left, the game was tied, 51-51.
Foster put the Lady Bulldogs back on top as her floater dropped in after a drive down the paint. Two free throws by Smith bumped the lead to four and forced a Pottsboro time out.
Lindsey Evans scored for the Lady Cards coming out of the break and with just 44 seconds left, Howe was looking to run some clock.
Pottsboro was looking to foul and when Foster got the ball, she was hacked with just over 10 seconds left in the game. Her two free throws made it a two-possession game, sealing the win for Howe and putting them on top in District 11-2A play.
Pottsboro 17 7 15 14 — 53
Howe 13 12 18 14 — 57
Howe: Harvey 18, Foster 12, Smith 10, Duffee 7, James 5, Carney 3, Hawkins 2.
Howe 63, S&S 31
The Lady Bulldogs kept their district record clean with a resounding, 63-31 win over S&S Dec. 17 in Howe. In the process, they moved their record to 3-10 overall and 1-0 in district.
The scoring honors were spread around in Howe’s 32-point win as four Lady Bulldogs had double-digit scoring nights.
Alissa Smith scored 16 points and added 10 rebounds and two steals in her night’s work. Rachel White, who had played limited minutes in Howe’s previous two games, scored 14 points against the Lady Rams.
Riley Harvey with a dozen points, along with her 13 rebounds, and Darci Foster with 11, joined the scoring parade.
Junior forward Kendall Nelms had 13 rebounds in the game, seven on the offensive end.
This one was over early as the Howe defense continues its impressive play, holding the visitors to single digits in three of the periods in the contest. Howe took a 39-11 lead to intermission.
The Lady Bulldogs travel to Tom Bean Friday as District 11-2A play continues.
S&S 5 6 16 4 — 31
Howe 19 20 9 15 — 63
Howe: Alissa Smith 16, Rachel White 14, Riley Harvey 12, Darci Foster 11, Kendall Nelms 4, Makenzie Duffee 3.Holly Hawkins 3.