The Mansfield Lady Tigers went into the tournament with one goal in mind. Redemption. The only conference team to beat Mansfield in the conference regular season was the Acorn Lady Tigers. The Lady Tigers beat Acorn at Mansfield but were downed by the Blue Tigers later on at Acorn. But Acorn owned the points spread on Mansfield which slated the Lady Tigers as the #2 seed. With both teams making it to the District Championship game, it was time for a #1 vs #2 top Tiger tiebreaker.
Both programs sized each other up with claws out as teeth began to gnash right after the tip-off. The Lady Tigers tore right into Acorn from the get-go with their high octane offense led by Danielle Lillie and Makayla Strutton. Both Strutton and Lillie are the Lady Tigers top ballers and Acorn knew it. So Acorn drew up a blueprint to shut the dynamic duo down. It slowed Mansfield down a little, but the Lady Tigers still held a slim 20-18 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.
What Acorn didn’t count on was the fact that Mansfield had depth. By shutting down the Lady Tiger dynamic duo, Acorn only opened the gates for the rest of the Lady Tigers to hand up points. Natalie Allison found the net wide open on back-to-back possessions and drilled two 3’s with ease. Freshman, Kynslee Ward, found herself unguarded at the key also and swished a 3 point shot. Even senior post, Chloe Creekmore, got into the long-range game and sunk a 3 pointer of her own. Acorn was still successful at holding off Lillie and Strutton though which slowed Mansfield’s momentum down. Normally, it is the Lady Tigers’ defense that stands tall and beats down their opponents, but they couldn’t hold up to Acorn’s aggressive fast-paced play allowing the Blue Tigers to stay in the game. It was a nail-bitter score going into the half with Acorn taking the lead with a 35-32 score.
Neither team seemed to have an upper hand on the other as the 3rd quarter started. Points were most definitely earned as both team’s defenses played hard and physical. As the quarter went on, emotions and exhaustion took their toll on the Lady Tigers. Although they subbed in often to keep fresh, Acorn’s constant pressure kept Mansfield down. Mansfield may have been down, but they weren’t out and closed out the 3rd quarter re-gaining the lead 49-44.
The 4th quarter. The end of all ends. The gut checker. It was where the Lady Tigers had to buck up and close it out or be closed out. Mansfield’s offense got back into game mode with a couple of 3’s from Skylynn Harris and began to roll. Assists from Lillie and Strutton to freshman, Alyson Edwards, was another shot in the arm for the Lady Tigers as Edwards tattooed her name on the backboard with bucket after bucket. As time ticked down, it was the Lady Tigers’ strength that became their weakness. Mansfield’s rebounding game, which is the Lady Tigers MO, didn’t exist in the 4th quarter and that gave Acorn the opportunity to gain multiple points off of putbacks. In the closing minute, Mansfield still held a slim lead but Acorn hit a shot to take the lead back. With the Lady Tigers unable to retrieve offensive rebounds, Acorn got the ball back forcing Mansfield to foul to stop the clock. Acorn was able to free throw the game out of reach from there as the Mansfield Lady Tigers fell 67-60.
Leading in points were Alyson Edwards with 16 followed by Danielle Lillie with 12, Skylynn Harris with 9, Natalie Allison with 8, Makayla Strutton and Chloe Creekmore with 6 each, and Kynslee Ward with 3. Senior, Makayla Strutton, has now broken the school record for steals in a season. The old record was held by Heather Ward with 115. Makayla currently has 118. Although the Lady Tigers didn’t come out on top, they still managed to bring home the 2A-4 Conference and District Runner-Up plaques while also gaining a #2 seed in the Regional Tournament. Mansfield will travel to Magazine to take on the #3 seed Lifeway Christian Warriors on Thursday, March 4th at 4:00 pm. A win will not only advance them into the Regional semi-finals, but will also give the Lady Tigers an automatic bid into the State Playoffs.