Kaylee Howell takes a drive to the paint for a score in the first quarter.

The Rockport-Fulton High School (RFHS) Lady Pirate basketball team’s sensational 2020-21 season came to an end Tuesday, Feb. 23 in a 70-53 loss to the Boerne Lady Greyhounds in the regional quarterfinals at George West.

RFHS ends the season with a 23-5 overall record and an undefeated 11-0 district record. The loss to Boerne snapped a near-program-record 20-game winning streak.

The Lady Pirates also finished the regular season ranked in the top-25 4A Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC) poll at #22.

RFHS Head Girl’s Basketball Coach Morgan Hale postgame said her team was heartbroken, but told them they had nothing to hang their heads about.

“I told them they defied the odds. Nobody thought we would even be where we’re at or do what we did this season,” said Hale. “We surpassed most people’s expectations and there’s nothing to hang our heads about in that. We just came up short tonight.”

Sophomore guard Jordan Malone said the loss hurts because of the bond their teammates created throughout the season and the passion they have for the game.

“Everything we’ve done has been done as a team. We’ve become each other’s best friends, we’ve become a family,” said Malone. “That’s why it’s so hard because we love it so much and it’s heartbreaking right now.”

Junior forward Kaylee Howell said it was simply “weird” to have lost after 20 straight victories.

“Hitting a loss after 20 wins is, it’s weird,” said Howell.

RFHS had a tough matchup in Boerne, who ended the regular season as the #13 ranked team in the TABC 4A top-25 poll.

“They’re a great team, they’re coached well, and they just have some straight up basketball players,” said Hale. “#25, it’s hard to teach height, and she just has some natural ability and God-given genetics and it’s hard to match up with that.

“Our post stepped up to the challenge and did a very good job in the first half. They just overpowered us a bit there towards the end.”

In the first quarter, RFHS took a 5-0 lead as Howell and Lilith Solis went to work quickly inside. Boerne fired back with two straight 3-point field goals (FG) and both teams exploded offensively the rest of the quarter. After a 3-ball from Malone, Boerne fired back from range and also began to find some space inside. Howell and Solis continued to draw fouls in the paint but went 3-7 from the line. Boerne ended the quarter with a 20-17 lead.

In the second quarter, Boerne took a slight lead on a 3-ball and hit a couple shots in the paint. The RFHS offense was in a lull until Messiah Hernandez provided a spark hitting two 3-point FG’s. In the final two minutes, Solis was automatic in the paint and brought the game to a 30-30 tie at the half.

Hale said the girls played a great first half and were pumped.

“They were ready to go, locked in. Going play-for-play,” said Hale. “Some calls went our way and helped us kind of stay in it there a little bit and we knocked down some big shots.”

In the third quarter, a string of turnovers and miscues offensively by RFHS helped spring a Boerne run that ultimately doomed the Lady Pirates. Boerne converted for 20 points while RFHS only scored eight. Six of those eight points were two 3-point FG’s from Malone.

“I feel like we just kind of came out a little gassed,” Hale said of the third quarter. “They exerted a lot of energy in the first half and I think they were mentally locked in and ready; I just think Boerne came out with a little bit more firepower than we did.”

In the fourth quarter, RFHS fell short of catching Boerne and struggled to match their offensive efficiency. Entering the quarter down 50-38, RFHS scored 15. Malone added another two 3-point FG’s in the quarter. However, Boerne scored another 20 points, keeping their distance from a possible RFHS comeback. Boerne also went a perfect 8-8 from the line.

Solis and Malone led RFHS in scoring with 15 points each.

Howell followed with 12 points and Hernandez scored nine points.

Postgame, Malone said Boerne has a couple great players on their roster and were tough to slow down.

“#10 and #25 are amazing fundamental basketball players and they were hard to stop,” said Malone. “I thought we did pretty well against them. I mean, if I could go back there’s some things I’d obviously do different, but they’re an amazing team.”

Looking back at RFHS’ improbable run, Howell said it was “one surprise after another.”

“A lot of it was very shocking, an amazing experience,” said Howell. “I felt like a lot of it was us growing (up). I’m very fortunate all of us are juniors and sophomores so we’re able to learn from it. We’re going to take it to everybody next year.”

RFHS will return 10 out of the 11 players on their current roster next season and return every starter.

Hale, in her first season head coach, told her players after the game the work towards next season started tomorrow.

“One of the things we talked about all season long, is when adversity hits, how do you respond? And this, even though it’s the end of our season, it’s still adversity,” said Hale. “How we respond starting tomorrow is going to dictate our next season.”

Malone said she’s confident the team will return next season with a burning desire to be even better. She also shared how their opponent, Boerne, was in a similar situation last season.

“Boerne was in this exact same position last year: They lost in the regional quarterfinals,” said Malone. “To see them come out here and fight the way they did just shows me we’re going to be battling for the same thing.

“I think everyone’s going to put in the work and everyone’s going to work hard (this offseason).”

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