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Looking Back: Lands Leads Lady Bulldogs to Bi-district Championship

When Howe coach Derek Lands and I had our first conversations about his 2013-14 Lady Bulldog basketball team, I expressed concerns about the loss of four seniors who had played such a crucial role in the team’s success over the preceding four years.

Lands is a glass half-full kinda guy so his opinion was that, “we’ll be alright.”

His 2013-14 team was better than alright, they were District 11-2A co-champions and won a bi-district title with a win over Leonard.

The team finished with an overall record of 17-11, and with its 57-40 win over Bells on February 4 it gave Lands his 300th court victory.

The season certainly got off to a rocky start as the Lady Bulldogs came up short in their first two games, both home losses. Leading 39-36 heading into the fourth quarter, Howe was outscored 18-11 in the period as Pilot Point escaped with the win.

Sophomore Riley Harvey got her season off to a nice start, however, scoring 31 points in the opener.

One week later, Farmersville came to Howe and the Lady Farmers used a fourth quarter rally to post a 77-69 win over the Lady Bulldogs. Alissa Smith scored 21 points to lead the Howe offense.

Howe traveled to Slidell to compete in a tournament and came home with a championship trophy after garnering three wins in the Wise County event. Harvey scored 56 points in the tournament as she, Smith and Aurian James were named to the all-tournament team.

Let’s just skip over the Sherman and Gunter games, nothing happening here, move along.

Mother Nature took over the scheduling for the Aubrey Tournament and decided that it would not be played.

With district action looming, some heavy-duty practice sessions were going on at the Howe Gym, and on December 13, the team traveled to Whitewright to open the league season.

The Lady Tigers had already gotten a win in the district with an upset over Bells on the Lady Panthers’ home court. After a sluggish start by both teams, Whitewright got a late 3-pointer to take a 19-16 lead to the halftime break.

Led by the 13-point effort of Holly Hawkins, Howe came back with some tough defense in the second half to come away with a 40-36 win to tipoff the district season.

One night later, Pottsboro paid a visit to Howe for a game delayed by weather. Pottsboro got off to a good start, taking a 4-point lead after one period, but Howe came back with an 11-1 run to take the lead.

It was a battle all the way between these two long-time rivals, but Howe prevailed, 57-53 to take a 2-0 district lead. Darci Foster had her first double-digit scoring game of the season with a dozen in the Lady Bulldog win.

After posting easy wins over S&S and Tom Bean, Howe went into the holiday break with a 4-0 record in the district and a 1-game lead over Bells.

Playing in the Sherman tournament, Howe was the only Class 2A team in the girls bracket and they were not able to overcome some tough competition, losing all four games.

Back to league play on January 3, and the Lady Bulldogs blasted Whitesboro 58-42 then beat Callisburg by 40 before facing a Bells team which had won five straight after that season-opening loss to Whitewright.

Trailing 32-30 to start the fourth quarter, Howe got a 3-pointer by Makenzie Duffee, a Morgan Carney basket from inside the paint and another deuce by Duffee to key a 17-7 run in the period. Howe’s 47-41 win kept the teams’ record spotless at 7-0 after the first run through the district.

The second half of league play got off to a horrible start. Playing in Pottsboro, Howe could not score in the second half, and the Lady Cardinals came away with a 42-27 win, the Lady Bulldogs first district loss since the 2012 season.

Three nights later, Howe hosted Whitewright, and the Lady Tigers were looking for payback for that early season loss on their home court.

Howe led 20-15 at the half, but the Lady Bulldog offense, especially the perimeter shooting, never came to life as Whitewright pulled off the upset with a 43-41 win. The loss dropped Howe into a three-way tie for the district lead as Bells, Pottsboro and the Lady Bulldogs each had 8-2 records.

Howe rebounded with a 51-19 win at S&S and swept the season series with a 60-37 win over Tom Bean. Whitesboro and Callisburg were next to fall and Riley Harvey had a career-high 33 points in Howe’s 64-47 win at Whitesboro.

On February 4, the long awaited rematch with Bells occurred and the Lady Panthers needed a win after losing to Pottsboro three nights earlier. In a December 13 article in this paper, we opined that Bells would win the district title. This decision coming after hours of film study and a dart toss.

After a 13-13 first quarter, Bells folded its tent and slipped away as Howe outscored the Lady Panthers 31-8 over the next 16 minutes. With a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter, Lands cleared his bench, giving his reserves some well-deserved minutes. The win was number 300 for coach Lands and it left Howe tied with Pottsboro, both with 10-2 district records. Howe won the coin toss and would take the No. 1 seed into postseason play.

After a 43-39 win in a warm-up game over Era, Howe moved six miles down Highway 5 to play Leonard at the Van Alstyne gym.

The Lady Tigers finished fourth in District 12-2A and perhaps the Lady Bulldogs were looking ahead when they took the court for the second game of a bi-district double header. This game turned out to be one of those where the fans got their money’s worth. Leonard took it to the Lady Bulldogs as they were looking to complete a four-game sweep of 12-2A teams over the Howe district.

The game was, for the most part, a back-and-forth battle with neither team able to build a substantial lead. Early on Howe was on top by eight, but Leonard came roaring back behind the play of Kimmy Blackburn. The junior guard had 28 points in the contest and she was a tough player to defend all night. Riley Harvey rose to the occasion as well, scoring 20 points and pulling down 11 rebounds to go with her four steals.

The game was tied, 48-48 at the end of regulation and most of the impartial crowd was rooting for the underdog Leonard team.

Aurian James stepped up her defensive game in the overtime period, getting a key steal and making three great, post-entry passes to set up easy baskets by Harvey and Holly Hawkins. Howe held off the Lady Tigers to take a 61-60 win for its second consecutive bi-district title.

The season came to a close for Howe in Gainesville as the Lady Bulldogs from Alvord prevailed in the Area round match up.

For first-year varsity players Alissa Smith, Holly Hawkins and Darci Foster, this season was a good learning experience. Hopefully they will put that education to good use down the road.

2013-14 Statistics

POINTS

Riley Harvey 496

Alissa Smith 261

Darci Foster 196

Holly Hawkins 134

Makenzie Duffee 106

Aurian James 77

Emily Sanders 37

Morgan Carney 32

Rachel White 30

Kendall Nelms 27

Christina Counts 25

Jessi Akins 19

Brooke Blum 18