The Abilene High girls basketball team hung with Class 4A No. 10 Stephenville for a half Tuesday, leading the Honeybees as late as the one-minute mark of the second quarter. But SHS closed that period on 4-0 run and outscored the Lady Eagles 21-7 in the third to account for the final margin in a 54-40 win at Eagle Gym.
Turning up the pressure out of halftime, the Honeybees converted smothering full-court defense into easy offense to build a double-digit lead by the 4:59 mark of the third quarter. And AHS was never able to work its way back into the game after that.
“Abilene did a good job in the first half of knocking down shots,” Stephenville coach Jason Hodges said. “I thought some of our pressure bothered them early, but they settled down and they got into a groove offensively.
“But we talked about it at halftime. We just said, ‘We’ve got to continue to do what we do, and we can’t take plays off.’ And I thought in the third quarter, we came out more focused, got back in our press and that really was the difference in the game because we kind of broke it open there.”
Stephenville (7-0) led 14-11 after one quarter, but the Lady Eagles rallied in the second to take a 22-20 lead with 2:15 remaining in the first half. That advantage stood until around the one-minute mark when the Honeybees tied the game, before regaining the lead with 32.6 seconds on the clock.
Though her team was trailing by a bucket at the halftime break, AHS coach Terri Raughton felt great about the way the Lady Eagles had played.
“They listened to the game plan today, they stayed focused and they were perfect,” the AHS coach said of her team’s first-half execution. “And they did well in the second half, too. From my perspective, the first and second quarter were excellent, and three and four were good. For Stephenville, it was flip-flopped. They were good and then they were excellent.
“I think any coach would want to finish excellent, or maybe just start and finish excellent. But I don’t think we played terribly bad in the third and fourth. There were just a few 30-second spurts where we kind of lost our head and got tired.”
The third quarter was all Stephenville, as the Honeybees pressure proved too much for AHS’ young guards to handle.
SHS turned turnovers into layups, pushing ahead 36-26 about three minutes into the second half and increasing its advantage to 16 points (45-29) by the start of the final period.
“That was huge,” Hodges said. “We’ve got some 3-point shooters, there’s no doubt about it. But we were looking at stats last week, and we’re shooting 48 percent from inside the 3-point line, and a lot of those points are coming in the paint. Some of them were off the press, but we’re really getting the ball inside.”
AHS (1-5) outscored SHS 11-9 over the final eight minutes, but the outcome was largely decided by then.
The Honeybees were led in the win by Alee McClendon with 18 points and Landri Withers with 16. Mya Wesley added nine points, followed by Jade Wilson with seven.
On the other side, AHS was paced by Trakenya Roberson with 12 points and Amyah Stark with nine. Shaliyah Christian-Stevenson and Ariana Trevino also contributed with six points apiece.
Up next for unbeaten Stephenville is a high-profile road matchup against Class 4A No. 3 Fredericksburg (9-1) on Friday.
Hodges said he likes the way his team is playing, but there are a number of areas in which the Honeybees can still improve.
“We’re still trying to get better,” Hodges said. “You can look at our record and say, ‘Oh, well we’re 7-0,’ and that’s great. But there’s still a long way to go. We go down to Fredericksburg Friday night, and that’s going to be a huge matchup for us, and then we turn around and play Somerset, who’s coming down from 5A.
“So there are no easy games. I do miss the tournaments. That’s a chance to get some kids some playing time and kind of get in a groove, but we saw some good things tonight and we’re continuing to get better. That’s all you can ask for right now.”
The Lady Eagles, meanwhile, get back on the court Friday with a road trip to North Richland Hills Richland, before opening District 2-6A action with a home game against Odessa Permian next Tuesday.
After having a number of early-season games canceled due to COVID, Raughton just wants to see continued growth from her team.
“We are getting better, and I tell our girls we want to be playing our best basketball next Tuesday,” she said. “So we’ve got to push ourselves to be playing our best basketball by Tuesday, and as long as we’re doing that, our preseason record doesn’t matter.
“As soon as district starts, we start 0-0, so that’s what we’re shooting for.”
STEPHENVILLE 54, ABILENE 40
Stephenville (7-0) — Kate McIrvin 0 1-2 1, Landri Withers 7 2-2 16, Mya Wilson 0 0-0 0, Alee McClendon 9 0-2 18, Jade Wilson 1 4-4 7, Kennedy Coffee 0 0-0 0, Jaylee Matthews 0 1-2 1, Trysten Monk 0 0-0 0, Seren Fowler 0 0-0 0, Zoe Birdwell 1 0-0 2, Mya Wesley 3 0-0 9. Totals 21 8-12 54.
Abilene High (1-5) — Shaliyah Christian-Stevenson 2 0-0 6, Ariana Trevino 2 1-2 6, Amyah Stark 4 0-0 9, Trakenya Roberson 5 1-4 12, Alexis Dolton 1 2-2 4, Leila Musquiz 0 1-2 1, Sereanna Mansaray 0 0-0 0, Tatyanna McIntosh 0 0-0 0, Kayley Washington 1 0-0 2, Vivica Villa 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 5-10 40.
3-Point Goals — Stephenville 4 (Wilson 1, Wesley 3); Abilene High 5 (Christian-Stevenson 2, Trevino 1, Stark 1, Roberson 1). Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None. Total Fouls — Stephenville 6; Abilene High 12.