By Will McClure
Off to a slow start before district play, the Stamford Lady Bulldogs began the Girls Stamford Hoops Classic Tournament Thursday night with a 2-7 record with wins thus far coming from Ballinger and Coleman. The Lady Bulldogs, seeded fifth for the tournament, would be placed in the second pool with the Trent Lady Gorillas and the Holliday Lady Eagles where all three teams would be guaranteed to play at least one more game when the tournament began bracket play Friday afternoon. After an emphatic first win, the Lady Bulldogs would just fall short of being in the championship game, but would be able to take the Consolation Title in their final game on Saturday.
GAME 1 VS. TRENT: Both teams started off in deadlock, with both the Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Gorillas going scoreless early on and only three points scored in the first four minutes of the game, which came from Ryah Mitchell and Marissa Hernandez. Both teams tried fancy ball movement and long passes, but could not find the basket. Trent began to find their rhythm, with quick fast breaks while Stamford suffered from multiple missed three point opportunities, missing no less than four shots before the end of the period. However, the very defensive first period resulted in the Lady Bulldogs staying ahead 8-5. The Trent Lady Gorillas would continue their defensive game, keeping close to each Lady Bulldog. However, the Lady Bulldogs would continue to shut down the Lady Gorillas’ offensive game, allowing them to maintain a 9 point run early on. The defensive deadlock eventually ended with the Lady Bulldogs making good steals and maintaining excellent ball movement, allowing them to extend their lead to 30-13 at the half.
The Lady Bulldogs did not lose any momentum going into the second half, shutting down any kind of a comeback from the Lady Gorillas by staying under the basket to capitalize on rebounds. Trent tried a more aggressive approach, only to be caught numerous times and allowing the ball to return to the Lady Bulldogs. Even with a complete team substitution in the fourth period, the Lady Gorillas just could not break through the Lady Bulldogs’ game. The Lady Dawgs continued to play a smart game by foregoing long passes and choosing their shots wisely. Even though the Lady Gorillas were given a few free throw opportunities, the Lady Bulldogs were able to put a stamp on the game with an emphatic 63-25 victory. Almost every Lady Bulldog contributed to the points scored in the game with Raquel Pachicano leading with 9 points followed by Ryan Mitchell and Jasalynn Applin with 8 points apiece. The win insured that Trent would play in the consolation game Friday afternoon, who fell to 0-2 while the Lady Bulldogs began the tournament at 1-0 entering their next game Friday against Holliday.
GAME 2 VS. HOLLIDAY: Although the Lady Bulldogs started out strong on the defensive side, the Holliday Lady Eagles would break through to take the early lead. Even though they were trailing, the Lady Bulldogs were able to prevent the game from being an early runaway with the score of 12-5 at the end of the first period. Holliday kept the game in their favor by extending their lead by four at the start of the second, resulting in a complete team substitution from the Lady Bulldogs to try and turn the game in their favor. The SHS student contingent began to get louder in an attempt to rally the Lady Bulldogs in the second, but the baskets would just not fall for Stamford as the Lady Eagles built on their lead going into halftime.
Raquel Pachicano started off the third period in a big way for the Lady Bulldogs, racking up four points that brought the bench and the students to their feet while also contributing to her team-leading 8 points in the game. The rejuvenated Lady Bulldogs were able to outscore the Lady Eagles in the period, scoring 11 points to Holliday’s 9. Although they were able to cut into Holliday’s lead, the Lady Bulldogs were unable to cut the gap to single digits going into the fourth period with Holliday leading 36-20. Three point attempts would dominate the Lady Bulldogs’ offense throughout the fourth, picking up where they left off in the third as Stamford tried to close the gap. However, the baskets would just not fall in the Lady Bulldogs’ favor and the Lady Eagles were able to keep the Stamford scoring at bay to take the 51-29 win. With the loss, the Stamford Lady Bulldogs fell to 1-1 in Pool Play, becoming runner-up for Pool #2 to Holliday who improved to 2-0. The Lady Bulldogs would then play the Merkel Lady Badgers in the semifinals Saturday morning, which would also serve as a rematch to Stamford’s 53-23 loss to Merkel earlier in the season.
SEMIFINAL GAME VS. MERKEL: From the opening tipoff, the game was sure to be a fight and it quickly turned into one. The Merkel Lady Badgers would eventually break away, leaving the Lady Bulldogs to suffer on both sides of the ball. Missed shots and an empty backcourt allowed the Lady Badgers to move in closer to their basket, taking the early lead 18-3. The troubles continued for the Lady Bulldogs in the second period as they just could not get on the same page with missed and tipped passes bringing the ball back into Merkel possession. The Lady Badgers would stay close and defended well, not allowing the Lady Bulldogs to get any closer. Stamford continued to struggle, with only one basket from Brittney Pete at the end of the period while the remainder of Stamford points came from free throw opportunities.
When the Lady Bulldogs returned at the start of the second half, Chantel Newton would signal the start of their second wind with four quick points, allowing the Lady Bulldogs to slowly close the gap. However, Merkel would not let up on defense and maintain a steady lead. Two back to back baskets from Ashton Cerda and Brittney Pete would bring the gap to 11 at the start of the fourth period. Ashton Cerda started the fourth period with a bang with five fast points, bringing the gap to single digits and sending the Bulldog fans to their feet. Merkel would answer quickly to bring the game back to a 14 point deficit. While the Lady Bulldogs attempted a major comeback, time was ultimately not on their side. However, the Lady Bulldogs proved they would not go down without a fight as they tried to keep the game close. Merkel ended up winning the game 53-39 after an exciting fourth period, but the win did not come easy thanks to the tough Lady Bulldogs. The win would send Merkel to the Championship game that afternoon while Stamford would play at 3:20 in the Consolation game where they would face the Abilene Lady Hawks.
CONSOLATION GAME VS. ABILENE LADY HAWKS: Feeding off the energy from the Bulldogs’ tournament victory the game before, the Lady Bulldogs looked to perform an encore when they faced the Abilene Lady Hawks in consolation game, with the winner finishing third place in the tournament. The game echoed the previous game with furious back and forth action with the Lady Bulldogs taking the early lead 13-8. The second period would ultimately lead to the Lady Hawks’ downfall as the Lady Bulldogs stepped up their game on both sides of the ball. An aggressive strategy from the Lady Hawks only resulted in sending a Lady Bulldog to the free throw line, allowing Stamford to extend the lead into the double digits going into the half, 24-13.
Back to back three pointers from Brittney Pete set the tone for the remainder of the game during the third period as the Lady Bulldogs continued to run away with the game. While the Lady Bulldogs seemed to lose some steam allowing the Lady Hawks to try and cut into the lead, the Lady Bulldogs kept a strong defense and extended their lead to 15 by the start of the final period. The Lady Hawks tried to mount a comeback, but the Lady Bulldogs completely put a stop to any offense and extended their lead to a game-high 23 points. The Lady Hawks could not overcome the deficit which led the Lady Bulldogs to take the game 47-26. The win would give the Lady Bulldogs the consolation title in the tournament while Merkel defeated Holliday in the Championship game. The Lady Bulldogs ended the tournament with a 2-2 record and added to their overall record, which now stands at 4-9. The Lady Bulldogs will travel to Hamlin to begin district play Tuesday, December 16 with the JV game beginning at 4:00 and the Varsity game beginning at 6:30. They will then return home to play their second district game against Roscoe on Friday, December 19 with JV beginning at 4:00 and Varsity at 6:30. Come out and support the Lady Bulldogs as they begin district play on Tuesday and congratulations, ladies, on your tournament success!