The El Campo Ladybirds (25-8) used a dominant first half to defeat the Smithville Tigers (7-16) 56-47 in Columbus to claim a bi-district championship and advance to the second round of the playoffs.
After a slow start in the first four minutes of the game, El Campo’s offense shifted into high gear, scoring 36 points in the first half. The Ladybirds also played well defensively, using their speed and a full-court press to force several turnovers. At halftime, it seemed like the game would end in a blowout with El Campo leading Smithville 36-16.
The Tigers refused to leave without a fight. Led by guards Mihyia Davis and Caroline Frerich, Smithville stunned El Campo with consistent ball movement, better shot selection, and a full-court press of their own.
The Tigers pulled within seven points late in the game, but were unable to complete their comeback when junior point guard Jackie Nichols iced the game with two free throws bringing the score to its final tally, 56-47.
Smithville outscored El Campo 31-20 in the second half, but the Ladybirds’ strong first half allowed them to escape with the win.
“In the fourth quarter, we made quite a few mistakes that were costly,” El Campo Head Coach Gabe Villareal said. “We only had five turnovers in the first half, and in that fourth quarter we had 12, all self-inflicted.”
In addition to the turnovers, El Campo committed 19 fouls on the night. The Tigers went 16/26 from the free-throw line, as opposed to 7/14 for the Ladybirds.
El Campo also gave up several offensive rebounds, giving Smithville many baskets on putbacks.
“We’re too athletic to let them outhustle (us),” Villareal said, “We’ve got to clean up those mistakes. (We had a) good win, but obviously as we advance we can’t do those things.”
Mya Shorter led the Ricebirds with 23 points including five three-pointers. Nichols finished with 20, while Alanah Terrell had seven and Alyssa Mendez, Tia Hearse, and Trinatee Roberts each scored two. Davis ended up with 14 for the Tigers while Frerich added 12.
Standout freshman point guard Seniada Barrientos, whose ball-handling was Smithville’s key to breaking El Campo’s press, totaled nine.