After a treacherous week weathering the elements, the Rockport-Fulton High School (RFHS) Lady Pirate basketball team staved off a tough Cuero Lady Gobblers team 45-36 in the area round playoffs Thursday, Feb. 18 in Woodsboro.
RFHS improves its overall record to 23-4.
As most of Texas endured an arctic front that knocked out power and water to numerous residents, the Lady Pirates needed to recoup for a playoff game against a tough opponent.
RFHS Head Girl’s Basketball Coach Morgan Hale said she knew many of her players had a lot of other things on their mind going into the game, but they locked in and got the job done.
“A lot of stuff has been going on in the last seven days that had nothing to do with basketball,” said Hale. “It kind of showed, but we settled in. I think the way our girls have defied adversity all season with being in quarantine and the kind of year it is, I mean they were prepared to overcome this.”
The team had not played a basketball game in a week, since their bi-district win over La Marque. However, Hale said once the rust and shakiness began to go away late in the game, RFHS got back to what they’ve been doing all season.
“Cuero had a great game plan, and we were just able to figure it out down the stretch and score more points at the end of the day. So I’m proud of them for that,” said Hale.
Up to game time, Hale said only two of her players still had power and water at home.
“Two of the girls all week long had power. Everybody else was out of power and water, freezing … I mean, this week was about life, not about basketball,” said Hale. “But, basketball was able to get them in the gym, get some shots up, go through practice; it was tough on them.”
In the first quarter, both teams were a little sluggish out of the gate with Cuero getting going first with a 4-0 lead halfway through the quarter. However, RFHS got out of its funk offensively after Messiah Hernandez drilled a three-ball to score RFHS’ first points of the game. Kaylee Howell scored five unanswered points, including an and-one, to tie it up with Cuero 8-8 to end the quarter.
In the second quarter, in contrast to the first, both teams traded punches offensively with Howell doing most of the damage offensively for RFHS. Cuero had gotten hot from midrange and was hitting their free throws. Cuero got the upper hand early in the quarter with a 19-14 lead, but RFHS came charging back in the final three minutes. Jordan Malone hit a bank shot 3-point field goal (FG) and RFHS followed up with key takeaways by Audra Jones and Malone, among others. In the last minute of play, Howell converted on an and-one opportunity to give RFHS its first lead of the game at 22-21. Howell then ended the half on a key block defensively with the score still at 22-21.
Hale said Howell’s presence on the court and energy during timeouts helped bring RFHS out of its lull’s in the first half.
“In timeouts, on the court, you could see she was saying, ‘Hey we’re in this. Keep fighting, don’t lay down,’” said Hale. “And she also led with how she played tonight. We needed her to step up, give us some buckets and she did it.”
In the third quarter, Cuero got hot and hit some big shots from range to keep them close with RFHS. Cuero was able to retake the lead over RFHS after hitting two big 3-point FG’s. However, Howell’s seven points inside along with a 3-point FG by Mikayla Molina put RFHS a point behind Cuero. Malone went 1-2 from the line late in the quarter to tie it up at 33-all heading into the fourth quarter.
Slowly, but surely, RFHS pulled away from Cuero in the final quarter. As Cuero tried to keep the ball away with lengthy possessions, RFHS was efficient on the few offensive opportunities they received in the final four minutes. The combination of Howell and Lilith Solis proved too much inside for Cuero, as both players hit key shots and scored four points each. Defensively, Cuero managed to score only three points in the final quarter.
Hale credited her defense for executing a great game plan against Cuero, and singled out Solis’ assignment defensively.
“When we’re rolling defensively, the offensive part always comes. Someway, somehow,” said Hale. “You could make an argument #4 was their (Cuero) best player, but Lilith stepped up to the challenge tonight and defended so well.
“Lilith literally did everything we talked about this week. She stepped up and did it. She also blew up on the offensive side. She made some beautiful moves, rebounded well; I mean, she was a difference maker.”
In the final seconds, Malone helped seal the win going 2-2 at the line to send RFHS into the third round.
Howell led RFHS in scoring with 23 points.
Malone and Solis followed with eight points each.
The Lady Pirates played Boerne Tuesday, Feb. 23 in George West.