MIDLOTHIAN — The torrid-shooting and quick Coolidge Yellow Jackets denied the Lipan Lady Indians’ third straight trip to the state basketball tournament.
It wasn’t easy though.
Coolidge built a 19-point lead before the gutsy Lady Indians almost rallied for a miracle third-round playoff win Tuesday evening in their Class A Division II Region III quarterfinal.
Lipan pulled to within one, 66-65, with 35 seconds left in the body-banging contest and had a chance to go ahead, but a 3-point attempt from the baseline was just off the mark.
“I thought we were going to win,” said teary-eyed Lipan coach Amber Branson after emerging from the emotional locker room. “To play as bad as we possibly could and come back and almost win the thing … I told them in there I was very proud of them.
“They’re like my kids. I hurt for them.”
Branson and others thought this might be the year the sixth-ranked Lady Indians (29-5) would finally win state.
“I thought it was our turn,” Branson said. “I thought we could win it.”
However, they were five wins away.
It was the Jackets’ third straight trip to the regional quarterfinals. They broke through with a win this time.
“I think they finally decided they wanted it,” Coolidge coach Bobby Smith praised his squad, rated seventh in the state.
Coolidge (24-2) never trailed, and Lipan was forced to battle from behind – sometimes against wide deficits.
The Jackets shot better – a sizzling 59 percent (26-for-44) from the field to Lipan’s 39 percent (27-for-70). Lipan shot much better at the free throw line (9-for-15, 60 percent), but not nearly as many as Coolidge (15-for-32, 47 percent), and that was ultimately the margin of victory.
The Jackets’ full-court pressure defense, textbook passing and hot shooting vaulted them to a 22-10 first-quarter lead and 37-23 halftime advantage.
Lipan’s offense got in gear in the third period and whittled the margin to 50-40 going into the electric last quarter.
Baskets by Lanie Roberts, Tallen Halliday, Rhiana Michou (the only senior on the team) and Shauna Coleman brought Lipan to within striking distance, 65-59, with 1:23 remaining.
A scoring barrage in 15 seconds fired the Lipan fans into a frenzy. Coleman muscled her way for consecutive buckets to get within 66-63, and Taylor Herrera’s goal got it to 66-65.
Coolidge made one of two free throws for a 2-point lead, 67-65, with 34 seconds left. Lipan tried to go ahead on a 3-point shot – possibly the game-winner – but the ball bounced off the rim. Lipan had to foul, and Coolidge basically iced the game with two free shots for a 69-65 lead with only 12 seconds left.
Coolidge made two more free throws with 1.5 seconds left, and the celebration was on.
Though her team enjoyed back-to-back state experiences before this season, Lipan coach Amber Branson said she and her team weren’t looking past this game.
“We knew they would be the best team we’ve played so far,” she said.
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Class A Div. II girls basketball
Region III quarterfinals
Lipan 10 13 17 25 – 65
Coolidge 22 15 13 21 – 71
Lipan (29-5) scoring – Shauna Coleman 29, Lanie Roberts 21, Taylor Herrera 4, Kayla Wheeler 4, Rhiana Michou 4, Tallen Halliday 3.
3-pointers – Lipan 2-15 (Roberts 1, Halliday 1), Coolidge 4-8.
2-pointers – Lipan 25-55, Coolidge 22-36.
Free throws – Lipan 9-15, Coolidge 15-32.
Rebounds – Lipan 30, 15 offensive (Coleman 14, Roberts 6), Coolidge 33, 10 offensive.
Lipan assists – Roberts 6, Michou 4.
Turnovers – Lipan 17, Coolidge 24 (Roberts 8 steals).