CORINTH – There were times during Monday evening’s Region I-6A quarterfinal when the shots weren’t falling for the Little Elm girls basketball team.
For a team that gains a lot of energy from their 3-point shooting, the Lady Lobos scored just 36 points by the end of the third quarter and had one combined 3-pointer between senior Amarachi Kimpson and sophomore Raniyah Hunt.
Kimpson and Hunt had a conversation about that very subject during the second half. Hunt told Kimpson, “We’re shooters, we can’t stop shooting.”
It was a pep talk that paid off in the fourth quarter. Hunt made four of Little Elm’s six 3-pointers in the game’s final eight minutes, while Kimpson made two 3s from well behind the 3-point line in a span of 20 seconds to put the Lady Lobos ahead for good, en route to a 65-52 win over District 6-6A champion Hebron at Lake Dallas.
Hunt scored 12 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter, while Kimpson also totaled 19 points in the victory.
“We’ve been shooting all week,” Hunt said. “We got in the gym every day before this game. When I tell you every day, I mean every day as a team. When we came to the game, our shots were off. Me and Amarachi talked and said, ‘We’re shooters, we can’t stop shooting.’ We came in the fourth quarter and had perfect timing. All of our shots were falling.”
Final: Little Elm 65, Hebron 52Little Elm moves on to regional semifinals for 1st time in team history. Lady Lobos erase a six-ppint deficit, rally behind six 3-pointers in the 4th (4 by Raniyah Hunt, two by @AmarachiSmoove_ ).Hebron's Jordan Thomas scored her 1,000th pt. pic.twitter.com/SujI1AJ0vp
Hebron (30-5) came into the contest having won its first two postseason games by a combined 78 points, but the Lady Hawks were hit with their first dose of adversity in the playoffs Monday.
In what was a highly anticipated game between district champions, sophomore guard Shiloh Kimpson hit all of the right notes for the Lady Lobos (30-5). She scored nine of her 11 points in the first quarter, including three free throws after being fouled with 34.2 seconds remaining for a 16-10 Little Elm lead.
But the one constant that worked in Hebron’s favor in the first half was the size advantage and agile feet of junior 6-foot-3 forward Jordan Thomas. Thomas used her height to spin past Little Elm defenders and also grab several crucial rebounds. She poured in 11 of her 16 points by the end of the first quarter. Thomas scored the 1,000th point of her career in the second quarter.
“Jordan was aggressive the entire night,” said Lisa Branch, Hebron head coach. “They couldn’t guard her one-on-one.”
Junior guard Paris Bradley followed Thomas’ lead. Bradley used her explosiveness and tough play around the rim to give the Lady Hawks their first lead of the game at 22-20. A couple of minutes later, Bradley made a free throw to give Hebron a 28-20 lead. She recorded 19 points.
Hebron had chances in the second half to increase its lead, leading 36-28 after a Thomas layup midway through the third quarter and then 42-36 after two free throws by Bradley with 6:40 to go in the ballgame. But the Lady Hawks weren’t able to close out the Lady Lobos, ending their season in the regional quarterfinals.
“I thought that we were doing a good job defensively,” Branch said. “We were finding the shooters and keeping them contained. When we lost the shooters is when we got ourselves in trouble. When knew that Kimpson had deep range. We knew that Hunt had range. We just lost them.”
But just when it appeared that Hebron had all of the momentum, Little Elm erupted from behind the arc. Hunt and Amarachi Kimpson capitalized on open-shot opportunities against the Lady Hawks’ zone defense. Hunt had the Lady Lobos firing on all cylinders after she made back-to-back 3-pointers less than a minute apart to tie the score at 42-42.
Kimpson delivered the daggers. With the score tied at 44, Kimpson pulled from six feet behind the 3-point line. The UNLV signee’s shot was nothing but net. It was Kimpson’s first of two 3s in a 20-second span to give Little Elm a 50-44 lead.
“I was wide open,” she said. “I work on that shot every day. I just know that I have the confidence to make that shot.”
Little Elm head coach Ken Tutt never saw his team panic despite trailing by eight points twice and by six points early in the fourth quarter, and for that reason, the Lady Lobos are bound for the regional semifinals for the first time in program history.
“I feel like we’re built for this,” he said. “We’re in a tough district. I feel like we’re battled-tested. We have really good teams in our district that prepared us for this game. We did a really good job of keeping our composure, sticking to the game plan and not getting complacent.”
Lady Lobos surging: See the best pictures from Little Elm's 65-52 win over Hebron
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