WAXAHACHIE — If the way Jaida Klor and the Lady Panthers' hot hands torched the net continued for a full 32 minutes, pundits may have been asking why Midlothian isn't in the playoff picture.
If you ask Head Coach Amy Tennison about her team's 36-29 Tuesday loss to Waxahachie High School at George W. Solis Gymnasium, not playing a complete game has been the story of the season.
"I think my kids play hard, we're still young and figuring out how to put four quarters together instead of three and a half," she said about relinquishing a nearly double-digit first quarter lead. "We're going to keep valuing possessions and keep plugging away and growing this season. We're getting to the point where the margin of victory is coming down to three to five possessions a game. That's the difference in ballgames for us right now."
With the strength of six first quarter points by Klor on 2-for-3 shooting from the field and 1-for-2 shooting from the free-throw line, the Lady Panthers opened the game on a 14-5 run and forced six of Waxahachie's 18 turnovers.
Midlothian also got a team-high six rebounds from junior Cristina Balderrama.
"Cristina, an athletic big who can rebound and alter shots, has played really well for us and provided that presence for us all year," Tennison said about the junior post that stepped in for injured Mikaela McGuire near the beginning of the season.
The Lady Panthers lead, however, was brief.
"I thought they were outhustling us and playing harder than we were. That's a huge embarrassment for us because we pride ourselves on being the hardest-working team in Texas," said Lesli Priebe, the Waxahachie head girls' basketball coach. "I was so disappointed with the way we came out because we didn't have any intensity and weren't getting after it, but I'm so proud of the way they responded after the first quarter. We talked about what we needed to do at halftime, made adjustments and played a very different game in the second half."
Waxahachie exploded during a 22-13 run through the second and third quarters, outrebounding their Ellis County counterparts 13-9 and outscoring them with points from sophomores Destiny Bobb and Paris Gantt and junior Diamond Atchison.
Atchison, the Lady Indians leading scorer with eight points, pulled down three rebounds and blocked one shot. Her trio of boards added to junior Sha'Quoria Thompson's game-leading eight rebounds and the two combined for 11 of the team's 29.
Waxahachie also got point-production from every girl on the nin-athlete roster — from Bobb (6), Thompson (6) and sophomore guard Jordan McGee (6) to Gantt (4), freshman guard Rayna Ross (3), sophomore forward Cassidy Morgan (2) and junior guard Destini Washington (1).
Tatum Sorrels, who scored at least one point in each quarter, buoyed Midlothian with a 13-point, three-steal performance. She was the game's leading scorer and Klor (6 pts), Sarah Williams (5 pts) and Sydney Massey (2 pts) each added contributions that kept the Lady Panthers within reach during until the middle of the fourth quarter.
"We're going to keep pressing," Tennison said about the two games remaining on their regular season schedule, noting the 6:30 p.m. Friday matchup with Mansfield Summit High School at MHS Arena. "We've been very close in a lot of ball games and I'm really proud of that and how the kids play hard and refuse to quit. They're heady enough to change defenses on the fly and do som things that allow us to change tempo against the teams we face. They're a great group of kids. We just have to put four quarters together."
While Midlothian is scheduled to face the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' No. 14 girls' 5A team, Waxahachie will face a Mansfield Legacy High School team they lost 39-36 to on Jan. 10.
The (20-10, 8-4) Lady Broncos hold the third seed in District 10-5A and are a game ahead of Waxahachie in the standings. A Lady Indian win would move them into a two-way tie.
"They're great penetrators and shooters so you have to defend both or pick your poison," Priebe said. "We've got to work on keeping the girl we're defending in front of us so they don't blow by and being able to close out on shots. A win would mathematically put us in the playoffs for sure, even if we lost to [Mansfield] Timberview. We're taking it one game at a time so we can do the things we need to do to go get a win."
Waxahachie will face Mansfield Timberview, the TABC's No. 2 team, Tuesday at George W. Solis Gymnasium during the season finale.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.