MANSFIELD — Midlothian High School's varsity girls won their second district game of the season and, in one felled swoop, leaped back into the District 10-5A playoff hunt.
The Lady Panthers beat Mansfield Lake Ridge High School 37-29 Tuesday night at MLRHS Gymnasium and moved into a two-way tie with Red Oak High School for fifth place in the district standings.
Desperately needing a win to get back into the mix of district play, the Lady Panthers suffocated Mansfield Lake Ridge in the first half, holding the Lady Eagles to four points in the first quarter.
"Our defensive effort in the first half was great. When you can hold a team to four points in a quarter and eight points in a half you're playing the type of defense that can help you more games than you lose," said Amy Tennison, the MHS head girls' basketball coach. "They made some adjustments at halftime and a big push in the second half, but the way the girls played during the first 16 minutes set the tone and helped us hang on and pull out a win."
Only Mansfield Lake Ridge's Jasmine Croskey, Sydney Black, Brittany Roberts and Shamoya Scatliffe scored points in the first half. Roberts (13 pts) scored nearly half of her team's total.
While the Lady Eagles to string baskets together, Midlothian, led by Jaida Klor, Sydney Massey and Tatum Sorrels, battered the edges of Mansfield Lake Ridge's perimeter defense and sliced into the interior. The Lady Panthers scored 19 points in the first two quarters via 8-for-9 shooting from the free throw line and a Massey first-quarter 3-pointer.
Klor scored six of her 10 points and Sorrells added four of her 10 points in the first half, helping Midlothian earn a 19-8 halftime lead. Sydney Massey and Cristina Balderrama scored five points each, including four points during a 12-point third quarter.
The Lady Panthers scored eight quick points at the beginning of the third and extended their lead, but Lake Ridge, led by eight points by Roberts and two each by Croskey and Jessica Paulk, went on a run in the fourth and brought Midlothian’s lead to single digits.
Free throws, Tennison said, as well as an improved handling of the Mansfield Lake Ridge full-court press and lack of careless turnovers, were important factors and keys to the victory that helped them scale the district standings.
"We handled their press fairly well," she said. "[Roberts] did a great job in the second half getting boards and attacking the basket going into a four-out-one-in offense against us, but our kids adjusted, competed and kept the turnovers down — I think we had 13 all game — during a tough win. We made plays and were aggressive [against the press] and learned from the loss to Waxahachie. We really broke down the game film and saw how passive we were. When a team presses, your mentality has to be to attack it and make them pay."
Tennison also noted her Lady Panthers' 14-for-20 shooting from the charity stripe and Klor's spotless 8-for-8 performance.
Midlothian will face Mansfield Summit High School, the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' No. 3 girls' 5A basketball team, at 6:30 p.m. at MHS Arena. The (19-5, 5-1) Lady Jaguars won eight of their last 10 games, including notching wins against Ellis County teams Red Oak and Waxahachie.
"Athletically, they are comparable to Mansfield Lake Ridge. Summit has a little bit of an edge as far as how well they execute their offense. They're ahead of the curve. If we can do to them what we did against Lake Ridge — keep them rattled and out of sync — we'll have as good a chance as any to come out with a win. They're a respected team across the state and it would be a huge confidence builder for us. I feel like my kids are close, they just have to put four quarters of basketball together."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusMarionWNI.