Minus Mitchell, Lady Tigers send Smithville packing
However, the new and improved Rockdale Lady Tigers were not to be denied as Victoria Drake’s free throws with 8.6 seconds remaining to be played lifted them past Smithville 34-33 Tuesday night at Tiger Gym.
Rockdale erased an 11-point halftime deficit and improved to 14-8 on the season and 1-1 in District 23-3A play, its earliest league victory since 2006.
Smithville dips to 7-17 and 1-1.
“Now, if I could just get them to play like that when she is in the game,” said Rockdale Coach Liz Galloway-McQuitter, in arguably her most important victory in five years as coach. “She carried us through the first half, so I asked them to pick her up.”
Forced to play without their leading scorer for the final 2 minutes, 58 seconds after she picked up her fifth foul on offense, the Lady Tigers used defense, a couple of free throws and plain old tenacity to snatch the victory.
Leading 33-30 after a pair of Madison Hannusch free throws with 2:19 left, Smithville attempted to run the clock out, but a steal and layup by Visha Henderson with 37 seconds left gave Rockdale hope at 33-32.
After Shelby Davee missed a free throw with 16 seconds left, Drake was fouled on a shot attempt and had two shots coming with 8.6 seconds on the clock.
The senior—the team’s best free throw shooter at 61 percent— camly sank the first one and after a Smithville time out, conveted the second to hand Rockdale its only lead of the evening.
On the ensuing tr ip dow n court, Ginny Flores swatted a Smithville pass away as the buzzer sounded.
Before fouling out, Mitchell pulled the trigger on 19 points, including 14 of the Lady Tigers’ 18 first half points.
The freshman also chipped in eight rebounds and three steals.
Drake finished with five points, all from the charity stripe and none larger than her last two.
Henderson keyed the defense with seven steals.
Witness the low scoring game, both teams struggled on offense as the Lady Tigers shot 23 percent from the f loor and Smithville 26.
Rockdale limited Smithville to just six points in the second half on two-for-13 shooting.
Despite Mitchell’s first half efforts, the Lady Tigers found themselves trailing 25-14 after Smithville reeled off 10 straight points during at two minute sprint at the end of the first half.
Rockdale chopped that lead to six in the third quarter after outscoring Smithville 5-2 while Mitchell quickly picked up her third and fourth fouls as the quarter ended.
“They stuck with it. The thing is to get them to believe they can win. That’s the psyche that we are working on. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them.”
The Lady Tigers got off to a stone cold start in district play in their 51-31 loss to Navasota (13-5) on the road.
Rockdale made just 10- of- 36 shots (28 percent) and also missed 10 free throws on top of turning the ball over 30 times.
The Lady Rattlers completely shut down Mitchell (1-for- 6), holding her to three points, 14 below her average.
Drake and Henderson tried to pick up the slack with seven points each.
Rockdale trailed 20-10 after the first quarter and 35-12 at halftime.
The Lady Tigers did fight back, outscoring Navasota 19-16 in the second half.
LADY TIGER SEASON STATS
Tuesday’s results: Rockdale 34, Smithville 33.
Friday’s results: Navasota 51, Rockdale 31; Giddings 60, LaGrange 28; Smithville 47, Caldwell 23.