The 31-2 (12-0) El Campo Ladybirds are moving on to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2014 after beating the 14-17 (4-6) Bellville Brahmarettes 59-27, Monday night in Columbus.
After a slow start from the Ladybirds, El Campo heated up in the second half to close out the win. Senior post Natalia Terrell was a freshmen when Coach Gabe Villarreal took over the program, both have made it to the playoffs each year, but this is the first time they’ve advanced.
“This one was huge. It meant a lot to me,” Villarreal said. “It’s emotional, Natalia was the only one on that team who’s been with me all four years. It was pretty special for the both of us and, for all of us, it was a big win. Hopefully, we can keep it going one at a time.”
“It’s a blessing,” Terrell said. “I’m really happy for my team and my coach. We came this far and it’s been good.”
The Ladybirds, with under two minutes left in the second quarter, lead by four points after a pass from senior wing Aubree Matthews, senior post Keiondra Ceasar an open layup.
The Brahmarettes answered back with a three, cutting the lead to 20-19. Mattews added a point with a free-throw on the next possession.
“We just had to get used to playing our style of (basketball),” Terrell said. “We just needed to keep working.”
With the half-court press, sophomore guard Mya Shorter picked off a Brahmarettes pass and layed the ball in for two more points. The Ladybirds got one more steal to close out the half, and Terrell, with time expiring, launched a three-pointer putting them up 26-19 at the half.
The final flurry over the last few minutes erased the first quarter and a half of basketball in which the Brahmarettes played Ladybirds close and pulling within a point.
The Ladybirds closed off the paint to the Brahmarettes forcing them into jump shots. They slowed the pace of the game down and passed the ball around the court until they found open holes in the defense.
Defense set the tone as the Ladybirds opened up the second half. They took away the open holes in the zone and the Brahmarettes were held to three points in the third and eight points overall in the second half.
Sophomore point guard Jackie Nichols picked off three passes to start the quarter. Nichols scored on a coast-to-coast layup and Shorter hit a three. The lead stretched to 31-20.
“The shot that Natalia (Terrell) hit going into half was huge,” Villarreal said. “It gave us a little bit of momentum.
Nichols scored on a put back and in the half court set, Shorter made a pass to Ca’terra Wilkins for a layup. The run continued, Terrell scored a layup and Shorter hit another three.
Nichols fourth steal of the quarter lead to a wide open layup to Shorter and the Ladybirds jumped out to a 42-22 lead.
The Ladybirds ended the third quarter on an 18-3 run.
“That’s what we have to do in the beginning of the game,” Villarreal said. “We can’t wait with better teams and with each round (the competition is) growing, it’s going to get tougher. We got to be able to start the game that way.”
With the lead, El Campo was able to sit the starters mid-way through the fourth quarter.
The Ladybirds in the second round will move on to play the 29-7 (7-3) Lampasas Lady Badgers.