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Lady Bulldogs Win Bi-district Championship in OT Thriller

Leader Photo by Michelle Carney  Darci Foster launches a jumper.
Leader Photo by Michelle Carney Darci Foster launches a jumper.
Leader Photo by Griff Servati, vaalltheway.com  Holly Hawkins
Leader Photo by Griff Servati, vaalltheway.com Holly Hawkins
Leader Photo by Michelle Carney
Leader Photo by Michelle Carney

If you’ve been around sports for any length of time you have no doubt heard the expression “it’s too bad somebody had to lose.”

That thought was expressed by many following Howe’s thrilling 61-60 overtime win over Leonard in its Class 2A, Region II bi-district playoff game played at Panther Gym in Van Alstyne on Feb. 11. However, the University Interscholastic League’s basketball championships don’t allow for ties, so Howe will advance to the area round, and for Leonard it’s a bittersweet ending to the 2013-14 hoops season.

It’s too bad that Kimmy Blackburn’s performance for Leonard will go unrewarded. The junior guard had a game-high 28 points and was tough for the Lady Bulldogs to defend all night.

Conversely, it’s great that Howe’s outstanding sophomore Riley Harvey gets rewarded for her 36 minutes of hard work that resulted in 20 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, as Howe will advance to the area round for the second consecutive season.

Darci Foster added 13 points for Howe and Alissa Smith dropped in 11, while Holly Hawkins with 10 joined the double-digit scoring parade. Hawkins also collected seven rebounds in the contest.

It’s also great that a packed house got to watch two thrilling basketball games as Farmersville beat Pottsboro,61-50 in the opening game of the double-header.

Leonard was looking to complete a four-game sweep for District 12-2A girls’ basketball as Gunter and Sunnyvale both advanced with easy wins at Anna.

The Howe-Leonard game was anything but easy for either team.

The Lady Bulldogs built up an eight point lead in the second quarter, but, like boarding-house biscuits, it didn’t last long. Alissa Smith had a pair of baskets early in the quarter to help build the lead, but Leonard, and Blackburn came roaring back.

Blackburn sent in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a 22-20 game at intermission with Howe on top.

Neither team could get any distance on the scoreboard in the second half; Leonard forged a 27-27 tie with just over two minutes left in the third period.

Baskets by Harvey and Foster helped Howe move ahead by four early in the final period of regulation, but a 3-pointer by Blackburn and a basket by Lexi Hattaway gave Leonard its first lead of the game, midway through the quarter. That lead evaporated quickly as Harvey drilled a mid-range jumper and a basket by Foster gave Howe a 42-38 lead with four minutes left.

Leonard rallied to take a 45-43 edge, before Howe came back at the free-throw line, making 5-of-6, the last two of which by Harvey deadlocked the game at 48-all to send the game to overtime.

Aurian James, Howe’s senior guard who had five steals in the contest, stepped up her game in the overtime period, making three great passes for assists on baskets for the Lady Bulldogs. James found Hawkins alone in the paint for an easy deuce then connected with Hawkins, who had position on the low block. Hawkins basket punched the Howe lead to four.

James tipped the ball away from Blackburn on her drive to the basket and took away a momentum swing to the Leonard side.

“She’s one of three that have been here before so she should handle the pressure of games like this and she did tonight.” Howe coach Derek Lands said. “The rest of the team found out what playoff basketball is all about tonight.”

For the final 30 seconds, everything for Howe came from the free-throw line and they made 5-of-6 to hold off the Lady Tigers.

Leonard 6 14 9 19 1 — 60

Howe 7 15 10 16 13 — 61

H: (17-10): Riley Harvey 20,Darci Foster 13, Alissa Smith 11, Holly Hawkins 10, Christina Counts 4, Morgan Carney 2, Aurian James 1.

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