Half and Half: West surges past Horn over final two quarters, on to regional tourney
GARLAND - Even without looking at the scoreboard, the moment Plano West (36-3) put Mesquite Horn away (25-7) in Tuesday night's regional quarterfinal from the Curtis Culwell Center was evident.
As long as you were looking at Devri Owens.
In the waning seconds of third quarter, the Lady Wolves senior made a pass to sophomore Sydney Skinner off the Lady Jaguars' seventh turnover of the frame. Skinner, who had nine points, dropped in a layup with seconds remaining and Owens pumped her fist at the buzzer as West took a 40-30 lead in an eventual 62-40 victory.
"That was a great feeling," Owens said. "When all five of us are on the same page, we are tough to beat and at that moment, you could feel we were."
It took awhile to get that feeling as Horn hung with West for two and a half quarters.
"We watched Horn [in its area victory over Plano East]," said Don Patterson, West head coach, "and you could tell they had good athletes, good shooters and were very tough."
The Lady Jaguars displayed their toughness early by dominating the boards.
Those rebounds came from a variety of sources with junior Lauren Bradshaw (nine), freshman Jada Underwood (eight) and senior Victoria Youman (five) cleaning up the glass. Those three were also among Horn's lead scorers as Underwood put in 11 points while Bradshaw and Youman each scored six. In a game that wasn't separated by more than six points until midway through the third, Bradshaw gave the Lady Jaguars their biggest lead at 8-4.
The Lady Wolves came back by forcing turnovers.
"It's simple for us," Patterson said. "Our success is based on our defense; you play good defense, the shots start falling."
Horn turned the ball over 25 times on the night with seven turnovers in the first, seven in the third and eight in the fourth (all quarters where the team was outscored).
"Give West credit," said Kasie Brewer, Horn head coach, "they do a great job with pressure for 32 minutes."
The Lady Wolves held an 18-13 advantage after one following a 3-pointer by freshman Natalie Chou, who scored nine, but the Lady Jaguars evened the count at 24-24 by halftime thanks to five missed West layups and a pair of 3-pointers from Horn senior Kristina Smith, who scored nine.
"Coach said to us at halftime, 'you don't want it to end tonight,'" Owens said.
"I told the girls they had come too far to go out like this," Patterson added. "I told them if we continued to get pushed around like this then it was going to be a long second half and these girls went out there and played tough."
Owens and senior Allison Staley, in particular, upped their game. Scoring a combined two points in the first half, Owens finished with 10 points and Staley reached 13 after both hit quick third-quarter threes to give West a 30-24 lead.
"When those two start making threes, the girls feel good and it seems to give them a little extra something," Patterson said.
Junior Tyara Warren-Cox gave West a little extra something Tuesday as well. Playing what Patterson called, "one of her best games of the season," Warren-Cox continually jumped passing lanes to force turnovers and drove to the basket for her 13 points. In addition to sharing the team high in points with Staley, Warren-Cox had six rebounds. That was tied for the team lead with senior Randi Reinhardt, who also scored six.
West also turned the tides on the glass, holding a 14-12 edge in the second.
"We came into this game knowing that winning the boards was key," Brewer said. "Unfortunately, that just didn't happen in the second half."
The fast-moving Lady Wolves closed the third on a 9-2 run to take a 40-30 lead and also scored the first nine points of the fourth with a putback by Warren-Cox making it 49-30.
"I think we got Horn a little tired," Patterson said.
A free throw by Underwood broke West's run, but Horn wouldn't mount a serious challenge from there as Staley scored seven of the Lady Wolves' final 11 points in a 62-40 victory.
After losing in the regional quarterfinals the last four years, West makes its first trip to the regional tournament since 2006-07.
"I'm so happy these girls get to go to regionals," Patterson said.
"This is quite an awesome feeling right now," Owens added. "This is a close-knit team and these seniors are like my sisters, so it's really exciting that we get to keep on playing and get closer to our goal."
That goal is West's first state championship since 2005-06. The Lady Wolves will next face 34-0 and No. 2 state-ranked Pflugerville in the regional semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday from the Ferrell Special Events Center in Waco.
"This is a big deal," Patterson said, "but these girls want to go to Austin, so they aren't done yet and they know the games will keep getting tougher from here."