For the time being, the players on the Houston High School girls basketball team are winning games almost in spite of themselves.
Despite committing 28 turnovers and going 9-for-23 from at the free throw line (39-percent), the Lady Tigers beat Thayer 47-41 in a South Central Association game Monday night in Hiett Gymnasium.
“I liked our tenacity and our defense was pretty good,” said HHS head coach Brent Kell, “and I thought we followed our game plan pretty well. But we had way too many turnovers and missed way too many free throws.”
Houston ran out to a 9-0 lead at the outset of the game and never trailed. But the more experienced Lady Bobcats (with a roster featuring nine upperclassmen, including six seniors and three juniors) kept things close throughout the scrappy, physical contest and had cut the deficit to 25-24 at halftime.
Sophomore Karlee Curtis scored a career-high 16 points for Houston and made several big plays on both ends of the floor. The 5-7 forward had 9 points in the first quarter and 5 in the fourth to help lift the Lady Tigers to their second SCA victory in as many tries. Sophomore forward Olivia Crites continued her streak of big offensive performances, scoring in double-figures again with 12 points, while freshman Angie Smith scored 6 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 9.
Senior guard Maddy Kerley led Thayer in scoring with 14 points, while senior forward Katie Wade added 10.
The Lady Tigers sank only 3-of-13 foul shots in the fourth quarter and were 1-for-10 at one point in the period. But with the game still on the line with 15 seconds to go, Curtis stepped up to the stripe and knocked down two big free throws.
“That could have cost us the game,” Kell said. “We’ll definitely be working on that some more.”
Early in the final period, Houston built a 39-31 lead when Smith blocked a shot on the defensive end and took the ball the length of the court for a layup. But thanks to the Lady Tigers’ poor free throw shooting, the Lady Bobcats came back to trail 43-41 when Wade drained a 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining.
Thayer turned the ball over 23 times in the game. Most of Houston’s turnovers were committed in half-court sets, especially when trying to get the ball into the post.
“That’s something we’ve got to work on,” Kell said. “But I thought our guards handled the ball pretty well for the most part.”
The two squads each had 35 rebounds in the contest. A dozen of Houston’s came on the offensive end, resulting in 16 second-chance points.
The Lady Tigers (6-5, 2-0 SCA) continue a four-game home stand by hosting another key SCA game against Liberty on Thursday (Jan. 14). Kell said he expects the Lady Eagles to press a lot on defense and attack the basket on offense.
“We’re going to have to be aggressive with our defense and stop the drive,” Kell said. “And we’re going to have to block out because they really go to the boards hard. But if we hold the turnovers down and shoot it well, they’re definitely beatable.”
Houston will host a pair of nonconference opponents next week, including Bradleyville on Tuesday and Dora on Thursday.
The win over Thayer was the Lady Tigers’ first in many years and helped them remain undefeated at home this season at 4-0.