JEWETT — For the second straight year, the Bullard girls basketball team traveled to Leon High School to face Lorena in the Class 3A playoffs, and for the second time the Lady Panthers returned home with a close loss.
Lorena defeated Bullard 41-37 in the Class 3A Region III girls basketball quarterfinals on Tuesday night, ending the Lady Panthers’ season and finishing Minta Spears’ incredible high school career. Spears scored all 17 points for Bullard in the second half against Lorena, and posted 25 for the game.
Both teams struggled to score at the start of the game, as each played stifling defense. Lorena scored the game’s first four points, and led 9-6 after the first quarter.
Bullard found their rhythm offensively at the beginning of the second quarter, scoring three straight shots to take a 13-9 lead. Samantha Cummins ended the Lady Panthers’ run with a corner three.
Lorena, however, fought back and regained a 14-13 lead, but a three from Spears recaptured the advantage for Bullard. Kylee Nichols hit a 3-pointer on the Lady Panthers’ next possession and Bullard led 19-14.
Things slowed down for both teams until the end of the quarter. Lorena began to find its way inside, drawing within one with less than two minutes until halftime. Summer Dolezel hit a three for Lorena with 22 second left in the half, and the Lady Leopards led 22-20 at the break.
Spears came out in the third quarter with a vengeance and quickly tied the game with a high bank shot, and made 2 of 3 free throw attempts on Bullard’s following possession.
But again Lorena stiffened their defense and regained the lead. Sims tied the game and later gave Lorena a 26-24 lead. She later hit a bank shot to give the Lady Leopards a 28-26 lead, and from that point Lorena never trailed.
The Lady Leopards extended their lead to 32-26 in the fourth quarter and led 37-28 with two minutes to play. Bullard made a push in the final minute of the contest, cutting their deficit to four on five points by Spears in 12 seconds, but a failed three with less than 10 seconds to play resulted in a rebound by Lorena and their victory.
“Lorena, in my opinion, is the best team in the region,” Bullard head coach Greg Gay said. “Player for player they are as good as anybody. We knew it was going to be a game that we hoped we could keep close, and they separated a little too much for us to come all the way back.
“(Spears) has been quite a difference maker for our program. She’s going to be missed.”
Spears has signed to play with Texas Tech.
Lorena improved to 27-8 with the win. Sims and Sampson led the Lady Leopards with 17 and 13 points, respectively.
“Our kids are really buying into our defensive scheme,” Lorena head coach Rodney Gee said. “Spears is unbelievable and you have to pay so much attention to her that it frees some other people up … I’m just really proud of our effort.”
Bullard finishes their 2011-2012 season with a 25-10 record. Lorena moves on to face Giddings in the Class 3A Region III semifinals at Johnson Coliseum on the campus of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.
Girls Class 3A
Region III Quarterfinals
Leon High School, Jewett
Lorena 41, Bullard 37
Lorena 9 13 7 12—41
Bullard 6 14 6 11—37
LORENA — Erin Sims, 17; Katie Sampson, 13; Summer Dolezel, 6; Calley Crye, 3; Briana Lina, 2. FT: 10-17.
BULLARD — Minta Spears, 25; Kylee Nichols, 6; Samantha Cummins, 5; Heather Anding, 1. FT: 8-16.
THREE-POINT GOALS — L: Dolezel (2), Sampson. B: Nichols (2), Spears (2), Cummings.
RECORDS — Bullard 25-10; Lorena 27-8.
NEXT UP – Lorena vs. Giddings, 8 p.m. Friday, Huntsville.