By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
It just got away from them, the ball, the moment, the game …
That’s the way it ended for Mildred’s Lady Eagles, whose season of grit and toughness and inspiration ended Friday night in the Waco Midway gym in a 61-45 loss to Rogers in the Class 2A Area round of the playoffs.
It’s almost a crime to put that score in print, because this was a nailing-biting, see-saw game until the final minute of the third quarter when Rogers took the lead and then broke the game open with back-to-back 3s in the final 1:20. Stormie Hebert,, who led Rogers with 17 points, hit hers with 1:20 left, and Erin Williams, who scored 12 points all on 3s, nailed her biggest shot of the night with 20 seconds left to lift Rogers to a 43-35 lead with an 9-0 run to end the third.
But as much as those late 3s hurt Mildred, the play of the night came in the opening minutes of the third when Maddie Moore picked up her fourth foul of the night.
Moore, the ever-energetic floor leader who plays like she was born to become a point guard, headed to the bench, and Rogers picked up the intensity on defense.
It was such a crucial call at that juncture in the game, and Moore was in shock and disbelief when she heard the whistle. She was putting pressure on Rogers and grabbed the ball to force a jump ball when she was hit with the foul. It was one of those calls that could have gone either way. But it seemed nothing went right for Mildred after that.
It was a tough, aggressive defense-first game for both teams, and Mildred spent all night in foul trouble, but Moore’s fourth was a game-changer for a Rogers team that forced eight turnovers from the moment Moore made her exit until the end of the third.
Rogers’ back-to-back 3s not only made it an 43-35 game, but seemed to ignite the defense and Rogers ran away with the game with a big fourth quarter that was fueled by turnovers and fast-break baskets.
Nope, 61-45 doesn’t quite paint the picture. The Rogers kids run like deer and have worn teams out in the fourth quarter during the entire season. It’s their MO, their calling card, but it’s impossible to tell how much better Mildred would have handled the fourth quarter pressure had the Lady Eagles had their point guard on the court.
Mildred’s 2-guard, Callie Bland, also finished the game with four fouls, and Shelby Adamson, who had another remarkable game, sat out most of the second quarter after picking up two quick fouls. She finished with 17 points and a dozen rebounds, including eight in the second half when she was on the floor a little more.
“It never helps when you’re playing behind in fouls,’’ said Mildred Coach Dale Clement, whose kids won the first district title at Mildred in 15years in a season where not many thought they would do much. They were picked to finish third in the district, and won it and then advanced to the Area round of the playoffs.
The battled most of the night with Rogers exchanging the lead and momentum several time, and even with Moore on the bench with her fourth foul, Mildred forged ahead and took back the lead twice in the third. The Lady Eagles saw Allison Hierholzer score 10 points. Moore scored eight, including six in the first half, and Maddie Murrell and Morgan McCreary dropped in four points each. Addi Ward came off the bench and had a big basket in the heat of the see-saw moments.
In the end, it wasn’t enough, and Mildred’s best season in years ended -- but it ended with more shine than scuff and the kids who led that sweet 11-3 run to end the season, will look back and relish it.
“It was a great season,’’ Clement said. “We went above everyone else’s expectations. Not ours, but everyone else’s. We made a statement. I am really proud of them. They did a great job.”