LIPAN – Although the Lipan Lady Indians suffered their first loss of the season Friday night, coach Amber Branson is hoping her team will benefit from the experience gained in the matchup of two top-ranked basketball squads.
Merkel’s defense forced multiple turnovers that it turned into easy layups as the Lady Badgers posted a 71-60 victory.
“I hope they are fast learners,” Branson said after her team’s loss as Lipan slipped to 13-1. “I hope (they learned) not to be intimidated. We’ve got to change some things on defense and protect the basketball better.”
While Lipan went into the game ranked No. 1 in the state in Class A Division II in both the Texas Girls Coaches Association and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches polls, Class 2A Merkel also was No. 1 in both polls.
Merkel, featuring a pair of 6-foot-3 post players (Tiffany Young and Alley Szabo), was tough on defense but struggled hitting its shots other than layups, especially in the first half.
Both coaches indicated their players were aware that it was a natchup of two highly regarded, previously unbeaten squads.
“I thought we were uptight and nervous about the game,” said Branson, who got a game-high 23 points from Shauna Coleman plus 16 from Lanie Roberts.
“In the second quarter we got it under the control. Our press is designed to protect the middle, and we did a very poor job of that. I probably should have changed something. We just kept giving up layups and turning the ball over.”
Merkel coach Clay Barnett said he fully expected the Lady Indians to come surging back after his team had led by as many as 11 points (22-11) late in the opening quarter.
“I told the girls it was going to be a game of runs,’ Barnett said. “With what their team had, they weren’t going to quit coming at us. Even thought they were turning the ball over, they continued to fight. Both teams did a pretty good job of responding to made baskets.”
Lipan’s full-court press also forced a significant number of turnovers. But Merkel’s transition game proved even more effective as the Lady Badgers scored 18 of their 22 first-quarter points off of Lipan turnovers.
After a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Lipan guard Rhianna Michou tied the game at 7 with 4:42 left in the first quarter, the Lady Badgers went on a 15-8 run to grab a 22-15 advantage entering the second quarter.
The Lady Indians responded by outscoring Merkel 10-2, propelled by 3-pointers from Roberts and Tallen Halliday, gaining their first and only lead, at 25-24 at the 5:07 mark in the second quarter.
Lipan kept withing striking distance in the third quarter, although it took a 7-2 spurt to pull within 51-46 entering the final quarter.
Merkel closed out the game by outscoring the Lady Indians 7-1 in the final 2:13 of the contest.
The Lady Badgers made 15-of-25 free throws, including 5-of-6 in the closing 33 seconds.
Despite the loss, Branson indicated it wasn’t a negative thing for her squad against a larger school – which for many years had been in the Class 3A ranks.
“To lose by 11 points, that was pretty good,” she said. “They were supposed to beat us. It’s not an upset by any means. I was just upset about some of the things we couldn’t control better.”
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Merkel 22 10 19 20 – 71
Lipan 15 12 9 14 – 60
Merkel (15-0) top scorers – Ciera Cope 21, Macie Mays 19.
Lipan (13-1) scorers – Shauna Coleman 23, Lanie Roberts 16, Kayla Wheeler 7, Rhianna Michou 6, Tallen Halliday 6, Larissa Prim 2.
Free throws – Merkel 15-25, Lipan 12-19.
Lipan 3-pointers – Roberts 2, Michou 2, Halliday 1.