By JUSTIN RAINS
In the first 22 or so minutes of the Palestine girls’ basketball team’s bi-district playoff game against Pollok Central here Monday, Dana Whitehead didn’t hit a three-point shot.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. The Ladycat senior took 10 during that stretch, without any finding the bottom of the net.
But, when her team needed a big shot from her the most, Whitehead delivered.
Whitehead hit her first three with 1:40 left in the third quarter to end a Central run, then hit one at the buzzer at the end of the third as well to put Palestine up five.
She added two more in the fourth as she helped the Ladycats hold off the Lady Dogs for a 53-45 victory here at Eagle Coliseum.
“(I was thinking) don’t give up, keep your head in the game and they’ll eventually fall,” Whitehead said.
With the win, Palestine moves on to face China Spring, the champions of District 17-3A. That game will be at either 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. Friday in Corsicana.
Central started the game fast, taking a 7-2 lead early in the first quarter. But, Palestine answered that with its own 12-2 run and, from that point on, never relinquished the lead.
But, it wasn’t for a lack of effort by the Lady Dogs.
Time after time, Central would make runs to cut Palestine’s lead to three, two or even one point.
But, every time, Palestine seemed to have an answer for the run.
“That’s been their motto most of the year,” PHS coach Joseph Baker said of his team. “I’m very impressed with them, that they didn’t crack under the pressure. It just shows how they’re growing in different areas, and that’s great to see going into this next round.”
There was Whitehead’s three late in the third to end that run, and then early in the fourth, after the Lady Dogs opened the quarter on a 4-0 run to make it 41-40 Palestine, Kierra Wilson calmly knocked down two free throws to extend the lead back to three.
That’s the way it went, with Palestine never giving the lead back and Central never letting the Ladycats out of striking distance.
After Wilson’s free throws extended the Ladycats’ lead to three, Palestine added two it and never again did Central get to within one possession.
It was, by any definition, a poor shooting night for the Ladycats, who were 19-for-61 (31 percent) from the field. But, the Ladycats are still moving on.
“There are different aspects to it,” Baker said. “If the outside shot isn’t working, then pound it inside and see what we can do. Another aspect to it is turn defense into offense.”
Palestine did that well, with a pressure-defense that forced Central into countless turnovers in the back court.
Palestine advanced to the playoffs with a 46-29 win over Groesbeck in the third-place tiebreaker game Saturday at Fairfield High School.
Paradyse Page led the way for the Ladycats with 17 points as well as six rebounds and six steals.
Kierra Wilson added 12 points, as did Dana Whitehead, who also pulled down seven rebounds.
SLOCUM 52, Lovelady 35
For the second-straight matchup, the eighth-ranked Slocum girls’ basketball team was too much for rival Lovelady.
The Lady Mustangs eased to a 52-35 win over the 16th-ranked Lady Lions Saturday to earn the District 20-A, Division I title.
With its win in the tiebreaker game, Slocum earns a first round bye in the playoffs, and also ends Lovelady’s run of six-straight district championships.
Kelsee Webb led Slocum with 15 points, while Landry Lane had 12 and Valerie Larkin added 11.
The Lady Mustangs (29-2) await the winner of the Harleton/Wortham bi-district matchup in the area round.
H.S. BOYS BASKETBALL
CAYUGA 107, Dawson 23
For the second-straight year, the Cayuga boys’ basketball team’s seniors don’t know what it’s like to drop a district game.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats followed up Friday’s dramatic win over Kerens with an easy, 107-23 rout of Dawson Monday, to finish the 18-A, Division I season a perfect 10-0.
Deon Shofner outscored Dawson on his own, finishing with 29 points, while fellow senior Preston Anderson came close, finishing with 22.
Brayden Walthall added 18 in the win, while both Chandler Rigdon and Colton Harrell pitched in 11.
As the district champions, Cayuga (24-6, 10-0) won’t open the playoffs until Feb. 21 at the earliest, in the area round.