The Mansfield JR Lady Tigers have had one immaculate season. Mansfield was an untouchable force to be reckoned with leading up to their 2A-4 District Tournament matchups on Saturday, February 12th. The Lady Tigers might have even been a little bit big-headed going into the Tournament as the #1 Seed as they were tested like never before by the Lavaca Golden Arrows in Round1 and the Acorn Tigers in the Championship game. Both Lavaca and Acorn were ready, but so was Mansfield. Although they were tested, Mansfield endeavored to persevere as they defeated both opponents to earn the 2021-22 District Tournament Championship trophy.
Because the Lady Tigers were the conference champions, Mansfield got a first-round bye in the District Tournament and the #1 Seed. Their first opponent, Lavaca, had to beat JC Westside to advance so the Lady Tigers were the fresher team in their matchup with the Golden Arrows. Mansfield jumped out early against Lavaca with a pair of threes by Presley Curry and Shelbie Fuller. The rest of the team followed suit as the Lady Tigers ended the first quarter with a 15-6 lead. Things got a little messy in the second quarter as the Lady Tigers ran smack dab into a foul wall which allowed Lavaca to go on a 5-0 run. Kaylee Ward and Kaylie Lowery were able to dump off a few board buckets to stretch Mansfield’s lead, but the Golden Arrows just wouldn’t go away as they forced even more fouls on the Lady Tigers. Going into the half, Mansfield had a 27-17 lead and knew that they wouldn’t be handed the W for free. They had to earn it.
The second half proved to be just as tough as the first for the Lady Tigers. Lavaca downed Mansfield for the first 6 points of the third quarter due to poor rebounding by the Lady Tigers. Kaylee Ward was able to get a smooth layup and sink two free throws, but Lavaca still was able to outscore Mansfield 7 to 4 in the third quarter to end it with a 31-24 score. There was no quit in Mansfield though. The Lady Tigers put their noses to the grind and kept working. Aggressive defense by Ambria Whittaker and Shelbie Fuller finally started to take its toll on Lavaca’s offense. The defensive pressure allowed Trinity Triska and Presley Curry to sweep a few steals from the Golden Arrows and give Mansfield some momentum. Although Mansfield had a rough go at Lavaca, they were still able to pull off the win with a 37-29 victory. Presley Curry and Kaylee Ward combined for 31 points in the game with Curry hanging up 15 points and Ward getting 16 points. The win gave Mansfield a shot at the District Title against a very familiar foe…….the Acorn Lady Tigers.
The 2A-4 District Championship game was a catfight to end all catfights. Mansfield struck first with a Kaylie Lowery board bucket and was then followed up by Kaylee Ward slicing past Acorn defenders for a layup. Just like that, it was 4-0 Mansfield, and they could go ahead and hoist the Championship trophy, right? Wrong. Acorn used the speed of their smaller players to give Mansfield’s defenders fits allowing the Blue Tigers to rally and tie the game up at 6 to 6. The Lady Tigers defense finally began to cut Acorns offense down a little better with Trinity Triska and Ambria Whittaker providing solid one on one defense on the perimeter. With the rolls reversed, Acorn got frustrated and wound up fouling Kaylee Ward who dropped two free throws to allow Mansfield to end the first quarter with a narrow 8-6 lead.
Mansfield stepped up its defense even more in the second quarter only allowing the Blue Tigers to score 4 points in the quarter. It took the whole team to pull it off, but they buckled down with Laney Woods forcing Acorn out of bounds, Trinity Triska making a steal, and Ambria Whittaker still smothering the Blue Tiger shooters. The defensive stunner for Acorn came when the Blue Tigers stole the ball from Mansfield and had a two-on-one break-away run against Kaylee Ward. Most two on one breakaways are sure-fire points, but Ward stuffed the ball putting the Mansfield faithful on their feet. Although the Lady Tigers offense was struggling, they were still able to put points up against Acorns stiff defense. Kaylee Ward downed a couple of putbacks off of rebounds, Shelbie Fuller hit two 2 pointers, and Presley Curry was one of two from the free-throw line to close the half with Mansfield up 15-10.
A slow and ugly third quarter by both teams raised the frustration levels of the entire stadium. Acorn put on some full-court pressure which forced Mansfield to make poor passes that turned into turnovers and in return, the Lady Tigers stole the ball from Acorn on multiple occasions. This made for a bunch of excitement, but neither the Lady Tigers nor Acorn could capitalize on their defensive swings. Even when one team did score, the other was there to put points back up in exchange as Mansfield edged their way to a 24-18 third-quarter close. Acorn started the fourth quarter on fire and took it to the Lady Tigers putting up 8 unanswered points to gain the lead over Mansfield with a 26-24 score. This was a chance to see how Mansfield, who was rarely behind at all this season, could handle the pressure. Kaylee Ward squeezed in a layup through Acorns tight defense to tie the game up 26-26. Presley Curry was able to get her hands on the ball forcing a tie ball to be called giving the Lady Tigers the possession again which set up the beginning of the end for Acorn. Following a Kaylee Ward layup, Shelbie Fuller popped in a layup of her own and then drained a 3 pointer from downtown, getting fouled in the process. The Lady Tigers defense did their job also by keeping Acorn from scoring again after they initially tied the game. As the battle ended and the smoke cleared, the Mansfield JR Lady Tigers walked off the court as the 2021-22 2A-4 District Champions with a 33-26 final score.
There is no doubt that the 2021-21 Mansfield JR Lady Tigers are good. Going undefeated in conference play, becoming 2A-4 conference and district champions, sweeping every tournament they played, and ending the regular season with a 19-1 overall record should be a testament as to how good they are. They could even be put up there with some of the best teams in Mansfield’s illustrious women’s basketball. As the season closes though, this team realizes that all of those achievements are already in the past. As this group begins to place their focus on the 2021-22 season, they know that the game of basketball isn’t what have you done, but what will you do.