It’s never easy being at the top.
Just ask the Lipan Lady Indians, who needed a fourth-quarter rally Saturday in Santo to stay atop the Class A Division II state basketball rankings.
The Lady Indians (12-0) edged the Lady Wildcats 41-39 to win the Santo Tournament.
Santo, the No. 4 team in the state in Class A Division I, is 10-2 with both losses to Lipan. They lost 56-41 at Lipan a week earlier in the Lady Indians’ homecoming in their new gym.
But this past Saturday the game was in Santo’s gym, and the Lady Wildcats were determined for some measure of revenge.
The Lady Indians found themselves trailing the entire contest before a late surge kept them perfect on the season.
“We did not shoot very well,” said Lipan coach Amber Branson. “We missed a lot of layups and easy shots.
“But I kept telling them as bad as we were shooting, we were only down five. Just keep after it and we will be fine.
“They kept playing hard and getting defensive stops. Finally in the fourth quarter, we were able to make some baskets and key plays to put us ahead. Then it was just a matter of protecting the ball and making free throws when they started fouling.”
The Lady Indians have struggled some at the free throw line this season, one of their very few weaknesses. The same was true against Santo, as they finished 7-for-17, but they made just enough to come away with the win.
“I’m very proud of their effort,” said Branson. “No matter what the situation on the floor, scoreboard, or how loud it got in the gym, they never gave up.”
Shauna Coleman and Rhiana Michou were named all-tournament. Coleman scored 40 points in the three wins, including 11 points with eight rebounds in the championship game. Michou scored 36 points with a dozen assists in three games.
The championship game featured solid defense from both teams. Lipan, while being held to 34 percent shooting from the field (15-for-44), limited Santo to 27 percent (12-for-45).
The Lady Indians committed 21 turnovers and had nine steals, compared to 23 turnovers and 11 steals for Santo.
Santo won the rebound battle, 34-25, including 12-10 on the offensive boards.
Lipan also got a little bit of a scare in the semifinals against Hico before pulling away late for a 53-37 victory. The Lady Indiand led only 33-31 going into the final quarter, but finished the game with a 20-6 run.
The Lady Indians had 17 assists distributed among the eight players who saw action in the game.
In the opening contest, Albany was no match for the Lady Indians in a 64-42 Lipan win. The Lady Indians launched 31 shots from 3-point range, making 10, including four by Michou.
In stark contrast, Albany only attempted four 3-pointers, missing each.
The Lady Indians have won two tournaments this season. They also took the top spot at the Hamilton Tournament in mid-November.
Lipan has a 69-7 record since they dropped three straight games in Nazareth early in the 2010-11 season. They are seeking a third consecutive trip to state.
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Lipan 11 18 15 20 – 64
Albany 14 6 6 16 – 42
Lipan (10-0) scoring – Shauna Coleman 17, Rhiana Michou 16, Taylor Herrera 8, Tallen Halliday 8, Lanie Roberts 8, Katelyn Martin 4, Kayla Wheeler 3.
3-pointers – Michou 4, Herrera 2, Halliday 2, Roberts 2.
Rebounds – Coleman 5, Roberts 5.
Assists – Roberts 6, Michou 5.
Steals – Halliday 6, Wheeler 4.
Free throws – Lipan 2-3, Albany 10-19.
Lipan 3 14 16 20 – 53
Hico 7 10 14 6 – 37
Lipan (11-0) scoring – Wheeler 14, Roberts 12, Coleman 12, Michou 10, Halliday 3, Herrera 2.
3-pointers – Roberts 2, Michou 2, Halliday 1.
Rebounds – Roberts 6, Halliday 5.
Assists – Herrera 6, Michou 4.
Steals – Roberts 4.
Free throws – Lipan 10-15, Hico 3-6.
Lipan 9 12 10 10 – 41
Santo 11 13 9 6 – 39
Lipan (12-0) scoring – Coleman 11, Roberts 10, Michou 10, Herrera 6, Wheeler 4.
3-pointers – Coleman 1, Roberts 1, Michou 1, Herrera 1.
Rebounds – Coleman 8, Roberts 5, Wheeler 5.
Assists – Roberts 5.
Steals – Michou 3, Wheeler 3.
Free throws – Lipan 7-17, Santo 11-17.