Save for a Rainey day: Lovejoy guard erupts in bi-district playoff win
Lovejoy junior Shani Rainey was cast as judge, jury and executioner in the Lady Leopards' first-ever foray through the Class 4A playoffs.
The Lady Leopards' guard accounted for nearly 60 percent of the offense Tuesday night and, coupled with a lockdown team defensive effort down the stretch, helped fuel a 40-33 victory over Mount Pleasant at North Forney High School.
"I know last year these girls lost in the first round," said Lisa Branch, Lovejoy head coach. "I'm hoping that was a little motivation for them because they came out with a lot of motivation, momentum and energy."
That carried over into the final frame as well, where the Lady Leopards went on a 9-1 run that broke a 21-21 tie with 6:44 remaining in the game. That rally prefaced a third quarter that saw Lovejoy score two points despite surrendering just five.
"That third quarter has been our Achilles heel all season long," Branch said. "We don't know why but when [Mount Pleasant] tied the ball game, we called a timeout and regrouped. We told them it's about defense and taking care of the ball."
At the heart of that effort was Rainey, who totaled 23 points in the win. Sophomore Samantha Odom added six points while sophomore Paige Eberhart contributed five.
"It started on the defensive end for Shani," Branch said. "We put her on one of their best players and she did a good job defensively, which in turn created easy offense for her."
Rainey scored six unanswered points to end the first half after Mount Pleasant closed the gap to 13-13. Only trailing at 2-0 Tuesday night, Lovejoy finished off the opening quarter with a 13-8 advantage.
"We wanted to pack it inside," Branch said. "[Mount Pleasant] has two big kids who are very athletic and can crash the offensive boards. Their guards like to drive inside and although we gave up some threes early, we did a good job of identifying their shooters and containing the ball."
Despite surrendering 14 points to Der'rae Mosley, the Lady Leopards limited Mount Pleasant to a single-digit output in each of the first three quarters before giving up 15 over the final eight minutes. Lovejoy countered with 19 points in the fourth to seal the win and set up an area round showdown Friday at 6 p.m. against Arlington Seguin. Slated to tip off from Carrollton Ranchview, the Lady Cougars are No. 17 in the state at Class 4A according to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
"[Seguin] is very athletic," Branch said. "We're going to try to change up defenses on them to keep them off guard. We're going to have to take care of the ball because they like to press and we need to finish each possession with strong rebounding."
Leopards await bi-district opponent
Already securing the District 13-4A Championship, the Lovejoy boys basketball team completed their run through district Tuesday night with a 63-55 win over Greenville.
Junior Jordan Reed led all scorers with 21 points.
Capping 13-4A play at 13-1, the Leopards now await the winner of a play-in game between Pine Tree and Hallsville, slated for this weekend. Upon securing an opponent for the bi-district round, Lovejoy will begin its playoff run Monday or Tuesday.
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