GIRLS: Bastrop 37, Ruston 33
Before the season started, Bastrop coach Emma Brooks knew it was inevitable that a sophomore and freshman-laden team would test her patience. Tuesday night proved to be such a night.
After watching a 17-point lead dwindle to four, Brooks' firm voice could be heard distinctly in the huddle during a fourth quarter timeout.
“My question was 'Have you ever been in this situation before?'” Brooks recalled. “And the answer was 'Yes.'
Tiara Brooks' driving layup with 1:26 remaining finally sealed a 37-33 victory for the Lady Rams — a win that Bastrop waited entirely too long to secure for its coach's liking.
“We lost focus,” coach Brooks said. “We're getting better with every game we play, but when it comes down to a game like this and they're pressing, you have to be able to maintain your composure.”
Bastrop's composure — along with coach Brooks' patience — were tried down the stretch.
Taking a pass from Jalijah Wheeler, Michelle Hardin maneuvered her way down low to give the Lady Rams a 35-24 lead with just under four minutes remaining.
Ally Braswell connected on a 3-pointer off the glass and a jumper from the right baseline on back-to-back possessions to bring the Lady Bearcats within 35-29.
After three straight empty possession by both teams, Hailey Hester converted an inbounds into a layup and Kiki Wright's steal and pull-up jumper closed the gap to 35-33 with 1:50 to play.
Following another steal by Wright, the Lady Bearcats had the potential game-tying bucket waived off due to traveling.
Breaking the press, Tiara Brooks (no relation to coach Brooks) drove the lane to give the Lady Rams a four-point cushion.
“Tiara's basket was big, it really was,” coach Brooks said.
Bastrop raced to a 9-2 first quarter lead and carried a 19-10 advantage into halftime.
Capping an 8-0 run to start the second half, Wheeler squared her shoulders and buried a jumper from the left corner to give the Lady Rams a commanding 27-10 bulge.
Ruston began to chip away as two buckets by Hailey Hester fueled an 8-4 run, which trimmed the deficit to 31-18 heading into the final frame.
Neither team produced a double figures scorer in the tightly-defended contest. Katajma Burrell scored seven of her nine points in the second quarter to lead the Lady Rams (13-6). Hester was high scorer for Ruston (11-15) with eight.
Bastrop visits West Ouachita on Friday, before returning home against Wossman on Tuesday.
Notes: Favoring her right leg, Ruston's Sunny McCallister left the game with assistance early in the fourth quarter and did not return. … Bastrop salvaged a split in the non-conference season series, with both teams winning at home. Ruston edged the Lady Rams 33-30 on Jan. 11 in Lincoln Parish. … Tuesday's game time was moved up one hour to 5 p.m. due to the threat of severe weather.