For the second year in a row, the El Campo Ladybirds learned the hard way they aren’t yet on the state championship level. The Ladybirds dropped their second-round game to the Hardin-Jefferson Lady Hawks 102-40, Monday night at Grand Oaks High School in Conroe.
El Campo last year lost to Fredericksburg who made the state championship game. The Lady Hawks two years ago made the state championship game and are currently undefeated.
The Lady Hawks (25-0, 12-0) played quick and used a full-court pressing man-to-man defense that threw the Ladybirds (18-5, 8-2) into problems from the first inbounds pass through the end of the game.
“We thought we were prepared, but they were fast-paced and quick and, once we fell behind it, was hard to catch back up,” Ladybirds coach Denise Anderson said.
Hardin-Jefferson led from start to finish. El Campo senior point guard Jackie Nichols won the tip-off, but the ball was instantly stolen and Hardin-Jefferson scored on a layup. Nichols beat the press on the following possession and tied the game with a layup.
The game quickly started to deteriorate, including a stretch of seven turnovers for the Ladybirds with the Lady Hawks taking advantage getting fast-break layups. El Campo turned the ball over 17 times in the first quarter alone as Hardin-Jefferson led 30-12.
With Hardin-Jefferson playing man defense, El Campo senior Mya Shorter had a hard time getting free from her defender and shooting three’s. The Ladybird’s offense, for the most part, came when they were able to beat the press and grab layups.
To start the second, Shorter grabbed a layup. The Ladybird defense forced a turnover and Nichols scored with another layup to pull within 14 points. Hardin-Jefferson’s defense picked up and forced three straight turnovers getting a layup after each, quickly wiping away what little momentum El Campo had built.
Hardin-Jefferson had two 30-point quarters in the first half. While their offense was more muted in the second half, they still had 41 points in the third and fourth quarters combined. The Ladybirds only scored in double-digits in the first and second quarters.
Nichols scored 18 of El Campo’s 40 points. Senior post V’Nisha Malone added six points.
El Campo is the 12th team this year to allow 100 or more points to the Lady Hawks. Hardin-Jefferson will meet Silsbee in the regional quarterfinals.
“If we want to be a state team, we can use that for the future, about where we are lacking as far as energy, hustle and the pace of the game,” Anderson said. “If we had to lose to someone, I’d rather it be to someone who has a chance to go to the state tournament, not a team who’s going to get beat in the second round.”
El Campo next year will have to do some rebuilding. They will be losing their entire starting lineup and eight seniors overall to graduation. Seniors this year are Nichols, Shorter, Malone, Alanah Terrell, Rhea Eide, Loralee Fitts, Stefany Flota and Tia Hearse.
The Ladybirds finished second in district and made it least the second round, the last three seasons.
“With all the ups and downs and all the hoops we had to jump through, I’m proud of where we ended up in district and proud of making it to the second round,” Anderson said. “I obviously wish we could have went farther with (this group) because they have so much talent, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us.”