The Mansfield Lady Tigers have earned the title of “Come Back Cats” in recent weeks. The Lady Tigers swept their conference opponents in the second half of the season and rolled into the 2A-4 District Tournament as the number one seeded team. As the number one seed, Mansfield was able to get a first-round bye in the tournament which would pit them against the winner of the Future School Rockets and the Lavaca Golden Arrows. Future School won the game but lost the war due to a forced forfeit of their victory. This gave Lavaca a pass and set up a scrappy matchup between Lavaca and the Lady Tigers.
Mansfield won the tip-off as Alyson Edwards took the ball from the Golden Arrows and forced a Lavaca foul. The quick start went flat quickly for the Lady Tigers though as both teams began to play patty cake with turnovers. Mansfield overcame their mishaps and Seven Sanderson finally put the Lady Tigers on the scoreboard. Sanderson continued assaulting the Golden Arrows by snatching nearly every rebound that bounced off the boards. Lavaca tried to shut her down but fouled her in the process allowing Sanderson to drop two free throws through the net. Mansfield began to warm up offensively when Kynslee Ward drained a three-point shot giving the Lady Tigers a 7-2 lead. Lavaca hit a three of their own to close the gap but Alyson Edwards put up back-to-back board buckets to silence the Golden Arrows as the quarter ended with an 11-5 Mansfield lead.
With a seemingly quiet start to the game, the Lady Tigers woke the crowd up to start the second quarter when Skylynn Harris made a massive blocked shot on the Golden Arrows in the opening seconds of the quarter. Harris wasn’t the only one getting aggressive though. Mansfield’s defense hit hard and often with Sarah Fisher fighting for rebounds, Natalie Allison forcing a jump ball, and Kynslee Ward playing toe to toe with Lavaca’s best players. With the defense playing great, Natalie Allison and Alyson Edwards were able to catch fouls by Lavaca as they went up for layups to pull the Lady Tigers offense up to par with their defense. Although Mansfield was hot, Lavaca wouldn’t lay down by any means. The Golden Arrows found gaps in the Lady Tigers defense and made a 9-0 run on Mansfield but run or no run, Lavaca still couldn’t pull ahead. Kynslee Ward left the Ladies in purple with dropped jaws as she sank not one, not two, but three three-point shots in the second quarter sending Mansfield into the half ahead of Lavaca 25-18.
Both teams came out of the half with one thing on their mind. Win. Edwards kicked the second half off powering her way to the basket with a rebound put-back for the Lady Tigers’ first points of the third quarter. The Golden Arrows answered right back scoring 8 unanswered points off of rebounds and steals. Before Lavaca could jump ahead of the Lady Tigers, they ran smack dab into the Seventh Wonder of Mansfield, Seven Sanderson. Sanderson stuffed a layup right back into a Lavaca player’s face and followed it up by a rebound and board bucket. Natalie Allison also created a positive turnover for Mansfield a she made the smart move to bounce the ball off of a Golden Arrow player as she fell out of bounds giving Mansfield the ball back. With the ball in their possession, Mansfield’s offense soared with Skylynn Harris dropping a three in from downtown followed by Seven Sanderson putting in a rebounded ball to stretch the Lady Tigers lead to 34-27. After being out for a few weeks, Harlie Fuller returned to the court and dished a smooth pass to Alyson Edwards for a deuce. Lavaca would again close the gap, but Mansfield still led 37-32 at the end of the third quarter.
The final quarter came down to who had the most gas in their tank to finish the race. Lavaca wouldn’t lose without a fight and Mansfield accepted that challenge. Seven Sanderson was the target the Golen Arrows were aiming for at first, but after she sank two free throws after being fouled, they laid off of her. That was when Natalie Allison, who was more of an assist player up to that point, was left wide open. She capitalized on the opportunity and swished a 3 pointer on Lavaca. Therefore the Lavaca focus shifted to Allison which led to Seven Sanderson again dropping points on the board by scoring back-to-back rebound scores. When the focus shifted again, Alyson Edwards was open for two putbacks of her own as Mansfield called a time out to catch their breath. The Lady Tigers were all smiles coming out of the time out and went back to having fun. Kynslee Ward was able to draw two of the most celebrated fouls in basketball, charges, which led to Mansfield regaining possession of the ball. The Golden Arrows’ defense began to foul as time was closing in on them but it only allowed Mansfield more free points off free throws. As the clock wound down, Skylynn Harris finished the game off with a massive block sealing Lavaca’s fate as Mansfield rolled to victory with a 50-39 score.
Alyson Edwards and Seven Sanderson were absolute backboard beasts with both leading the team in points scoring 14 apiece. Kynslee Ward aired out the ball with 12 points, all from three-point range. Natalie Allison and Skylynn Harris closed Mansfield’s scoring by racking up 5 points each in the game. The victory set up a familiar match-up for the Lady Tigers will face the Mountainburg Lady Dragons for the 2A-4 District Championship. Mountainburg is hosting the District Tournament with means they will have a home-court advantage. Mansfield has beaten Mountainburg in their previous two meetings giving them the confidence advantage. This small town showdown of two big-time teams will tip-off on Friday, February 18th at 6:00 pm.