WELLS — The Palestine High School girls' basketball team played smothering defense throughout Monday's Conference 4A-Region III bi-district playoff game.
That defense nearly caused Huntington, ranked 19th in the latest Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' Conference 4A poll, to fold.
Palestine was down one possession with a chance to tie during the final minute of the fourth quarter; but, the Devilettes eventually knocked off the LadyCats 52-47 at Wells High School gymnasium.
“Their pressure got to us,” said Huntington head coach Bo Massey. “They did a good job on defense against us. They anticipated our passes, and we made some bad decisions.”
Palestine didn't play like the fourth seed coming out of District 19-4A, and Massey acknowledged that — complimenting the LadyCats on their hustle.
“You went out fighting. It was quite an honor an accomplishment to have had the opportunity to enter the playoffs.”
Jenkins deserves plaudits, too.
Because unlike in last year's LadyCats' 64-36 bi-district loss to China Spring at the Wolens Events Center in Corsicana, the LadyCats were engaged from beginning to end — and nearly pulled off an epic upset.
After Huntington connected on a basket inside to make the score 50-47, Jenkins called a timeout to set up a hopeful game-tying play.
Palestine had the shot it wanted, as leading scorer Destiny Mathews came off a screen for a 20-foot 3-pointer at the top of the key.
However, the shot dinged off the iron, and Devilette Micayla Havard finished off the LadyCats swishing a pair of free throws with 3.9 ticks left. Havard paced Huntington was 22 points, including 8-of-9 on free throws.
Jenkins said the strategy was to jump out early on Huntington; however, the Devilettes were ahead four points at both the end of the first quarter (13-9) and intermission (26-22). The LadyCats found themselves with a 39-31 deficit heading into the fourth.
Palestine wouldn't go away. Massey credited the LadyCats' defense for forcing two five-second calls on inbounds plays midway through the fourth quarter.
With 5:13 left in the fourth quarter, Palestine was down 43-31; however, Mathews canned three free throws on one possession and Lex Calhoun knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing.
Palestine closed within one point (45-44) with 1:27 to go as Mathews spotted Jamya Reeves inside for two.
Ultimately, and as Jenkins acknowledged, the LadyCats' foul trouble caught up with them.
Mathews was the game's leading scorer with 27 (including 8-of-14) from the line. Ja'Bria Simmons and Kayla Smith added six points each.
Makenzie Hale and Jenna Flournoy also scored in double digits for Huntington, with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Now and Ahead
Palestine finished the season with a record of 14-20, and several players will be lost to graduation — Destiny Mathews, Ja'Bria Simmons, Kayla Smith, Lex Calhoun, Carmen Aguilar and Chanylla Gibson.
“Destiny finished a four-year career with 2,493 points,” Jenkins noted.
Meanwhile, Huntington (30-5) will play Waco Connally at 7 p.m. on Friday in Athens.
Connally (28-4) downed Hillsboro 62-49 in a bi-district game also played on Monday.
Conference 4A-Region III Playoffs
Huntington 52, Palestine 47
Score by quarters
H 13 13 13 13 — 52
P 9 13 9 16 — 47
Huntington: Makenzie Hale, 11; Karly Williams, 2; Micayla Havard, 22; Shalyn Hadnot, 7; Jenna Flournoy, 10
Palestine: Kayla Smith, 6; Lex Calhoun, 3; MaChayla Jordan, 1; Ja'Mya Reeves, 2; Raina Hanzik, 2; Madison Thomas, 1; Ja'Bria Simmons, 6; Destiny Mathews, 27
Personal fouls: Palestine 19, Huntington, 16; Fouled out: Ja'Bria Simmons, Lex Calhoun, Kayla Smith, Palestine; Technical fouls: None.